Legal English/Full lesson

01 – Introduction to Legal English


Lesson 1: Introduction to Legal Language Text A: A Career in Law

Read the text below and try to understand the words in bold

The study of law is intellectually stimulating and challenging, and can lead to a variety of interesting careers.

In the UK and the USA, law degree programmes usually take three years to complete. In the UK, these programmes typically include core subjects such as criminal law, contract law, tort law, land law, equity and trusts, administrative law and constitutional law. In addition, students are often required to take courses covering skills such as legal writing and legal research.

There is also a variety of optional (elective) courses available. Since many law students go on to become lawyers, students often take courses that will be useful to them during the future careers. Someone wishing to run a small partnership ought to work alone as a sole practitioner in a small town may decide to take subjects such as family law, employment law and housing law. Those wishing to work in a large law practice will consider subjects such as company law, commercial and litigation and arbitration.

Many universities also offer courses on legal practise. Courses like this give students the opportunity to experience the work of a lawyer before deciding on a career in the law. Another way of finding out more about law in practice is to get involved with a voluntary advice centre or law clinic. These clinics offer free legal assistance to the local community and provide a useful introduction to some of the day-to-day work of a lawyer.

For students wishing to work in a commercial practice, knowledge of foreign languages is essential. When law firms hire new recruits, they generally look at four things: education, personality come on work experience and language ability. Since English is the language of the international legal community, law firms increasingly expects graduates to have a good command of English.

Do activity: 1.1



Text B: Company Law

Read the texts below (from Characteristics of a Company to Form 12)

Characteristics of a company

A company is regarded in law as being a separate legal ‘person’, with a separate legal personality. This means that it has rights separate from its owners and managers to enter into contracts, employ people, own property and conduct business. The creation and management of a company is governed by the Companies Act 1985 (CA ’85) and the Companies Act 1989. By far the largest number of incorporated companies are incorporated with limited liability, being limited by shares as defined by section 1(2)(a) CA ’85. The potential financial liability of a member (in other words shareholder) in such a company is limited to the amount, if any, remaining unpaid on the shares held by that particular member. Such a company is known as a limited company and will have the word ‘Limited’ at the end of its name.

A company can be a private or a public company. A public company must have a minimum issued share capital of £50,000, as required by sections 11 and 118 CA ’85. A public company may offer its shares for sale to the public (s. 81 CA ’85), whereas a private company must not. A public company may also have its shares listed (and traded) on the Stock Exchange. Information on the current values of such listed shares is publicly available and can be checked for instance in The Financial Times.


There are a number of legal requirements which must be complied with in order to incorporate (in other words create) a company. In particular, the following documentation will normally be required.

Memorandum of Association

The Memorandum of Association (known as the ‘articles of incorporation’ in the US) contains the following information:

■  Name of the company

■  The company’s objects and powers (meaning basically the sphere of activities and nature of the company)

■  The company’s share capital Articles of Association

The Articles of Association (the articles) are in effect a set of rules governing the conduct of the members of the company and its officers. The officers of a company are its directors and company secretary. These rules commonly relate to matters such as the conduct of shareholder and board meetings, any restriction on the transferability of shares and the powers bestowed on the directors etc. (In the US the Articles of Association are known as the bylaws.) Many companies use a standard form of articles known as ‘Table A Articles’.

Form 10

This is a standard form which must be completed with details of the intended officers of the company, as required by s. 10(2) CA ’85. Every incorporated company must have at least one director and one company secretary. (If there is to be only one director then that individual cannot also be the company secretary.) Details of the company’s registered office (at which formal documents will usually be served upon the company) should also be included in Form 10.

Form 12

This is another standard form which must be signed by a person applying for incorporation of the company to certify that the legal requirements for registration have been complied with. The person signing Form 12 (commonly known as the promoter of the company) can be one of the directors, the company secretary or a solicitor engaged in the formation of the company.

Once completed, these company documents must then be sent to the Registrar of Companies (‘the registrar’), along with a fee. The registrar then registers the company and issues a Certificate of Incorporation. This is when the company comes into existence. There are further legal requirements which the incorporated company must then continue to comply with, such as having annual accounts prepared (s. 226 CA ’85), a copy of which must be filed annually at Companies House (s. 242 CA ’85).

Do task: 1.2



Lesson 2: Types of Legal Texts

Basic Types of Legal Documents

Read the following definitions and try to understand each type of legal document.

•  Instruments

–  This is a formal legal document that grants (or proves the grant) of a right. Examples: • Deeds, Wills, Mortgages, etc.

•    Pleading – This is a formal statement by a party in the context of litigation. Examples: • Complaints, answers

•    Document – This applies to any other communication set to a permanent medium that is relevant to a legal issue. Examples: • Police reports, photographs, letters, etc.

•  Contract

–    Any written agreement can fall under this heading

•    Deed

–    This transfers any interest in real estate

•    Including easements, mortgages, etc.

•    Business Documents

–  Article of incorporation, bylaws, partnership agreements

•    Will/ Codicil

–    These are special legal documents that allow gifts to be given after one’s death

•    Trust

–    Establishes an agreement whereby the trustee agrees to hold property for the beneficiary Obtaining Background Information

•    Preparation and execution of any legal task requires, at its threshold, certain info
r-mation from the clients. This can be obtained at an interview and/or through a question-naire. This

information includes:

–    Family information

–    Financial information and which other advisors the client is working with

–    Employment information

–    Health information

–    Important documents relevant to the client

–    (If a civil action) All information and documentation relevant to the case Where to Get Forms

•    Very few documents are drafted from scratch. Almost all documents are drafted from templates belonging to the firm or accessed elsewhere.

•    A big part of drafting many forms is locating appropriate templates. There can be gotten from:

–    Documents done for previous clients

–    Commercial forms producers, such as:

•    Jurisprudence Legal Forms

•    West Legal Forms

•    Online sources

General Form of Legal Writings

•     For the most part, you can choose your own type of paper, ink, etc. However, for certain instruments and in papers submitted to a court, there are often rules regarding these things, which must be followed.

•    Court that have such rules often publish them in a circular that can be obtained from the court.

•    Always ask the clerk when in doubt! Some physical aspects to Legal Documents

•    Paper – Use letter size in general; legal size is sometimes used as well and may be

required for certain types of instruments such as deeds

•    Typeface – Use a conservative, traditional font

•    Margins – Make sure to use margins big enough to make reading comfortable; such as 1¬

1.5 inch margins • Spacing – Pleadings and some instruments should be double spaced

–    Most other documents can be 1.5 spaced

–    Letters are often single spaced

Special Components of Legal Documents

•    In addition to the body of the document, legal documents often must contain:

–    Caption (for anything submitted to the court) – Heading (for most legal documents, including letters, etc.)

–    Place for signatures, especially for instruments

–    Acknowledgment/ space for the document to be notarized, where appropriate

–    Filings with the court often must also have space for the attorney to sign as well Special Mechanical Rules for Legal Documents

•    The following are often put in ALL CAPS:

–    Names of people or businesses, organizations, etc.

–    Title of the instrument

–    Header words of important paragraphs (e.g., “WHEREAS”)

•    Grammar and spelling

–    Correct grammar and spelling are important not only to avoid changing the meaning of the document, but also to present an aura of professionalism

•    Numbers are often written in both English and Arabic numbers; e.g., – Ten thousand Dollars ($10,000)

•    Page numbering

–    The first page is not numbered; all subsequent pages are numbered at the bottom centre. Pre-printed Forms

•    Sometimes, courts or other agencies will have specific forms that they will require for

certain tasks. To use such forms: – Some may be available in Word (or similar) format. There can be filled in easily on your computer.

•  Sometimes, courts require affidavits that you did not change anything substantive about the form so that the clerk does not have to read through the entire form – If you cannot secure these forms in Word (or similar) format, the best thing is to fill it in with a typewriter,

though very neat print writing is usually also accepted.

•    Inserting “N/A” or “0” is preferable to leaving the space blank.

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