What is Legal English
Legal English differs from standard international English in that it refers to the style of English used by legal professionals in their work. For example, the language used in international contracts and statutes, which can also be referred to as “legalese”. Legal English has long been considered a necessary skill for lawyers in English-speaking countries however due to the emergence of English as the language of international business it fast becoming a necessary skill for all legal international professionals to consider acquiring.
Traditionally the law has always had its own “language” used and understood only by legal professionals internationally, whether this be Latin, English, French or a combination of other languages. This legal language has changed and adapted with the various conquering countries in the past. Each influence has contributed significantly to the international language we call Legal English today and forms the basis of its distinctive style. When explored further it is clearly possible to see how common terms in international Legal English today such as “Will and Testament” have developed from a combination of the languages that exist only in the Legal world.
There are a number of differences between Legal English and standard international English.
Firstly, some words in standard international English have entirely different meanings when used in a legal context. One example of this is the use of the word “consideration” which means thinking about others in standard international English, but when used with regard to a contract refers to the thing of value that passes between people in exchange for something.
Secondly, there are the words that are only used in an international legal context and would not be used or understood in everyday life by persons without legal training such as “tort” and “restrictive covenant”.
There is also the distinct lack of punctuation in legal documents and differing word order. This would cause great confusion to a person who has only taken a standard international English course and had no understanding of Legal English.
In fact there are a number of grammatical differences another example being the use of the word “said” in the phrase “the said Martin O’Leary”.
Finally and most obviously there is the use of words and phrases in other languages altogether for example “mens rea”.