Updated: May 12
Want to succeed in your translation studies in law? Want to succeed in your legal translation career?
You must know legal English as native professionals (UK and US judges, attorney, etc.) do.
No worry. Possible.
So that you can work for prestigious law firms or to work at other prestigious and smaller law firms with international clients, to be able to work for multinational companies with legal texts awaiting you to translate them. In short, to broaden and expand your clientele and eventually your world. Do you speak English very well or perfectly? It is a very good or perfect basis for success. But it is not enough. Why?
Because ordinary (general) English is quite different from legal English, just like your ordinary mother tongue (Spanish, Hungarian, Finnish, German, etc.) is different from the legal version of your mother tongue, Spanish, Hungarian, Finnish, German legal language.
For a successful legal translation career, you must know legal English at native pro level. You may ask how to learn and excel in legal English, just like native professionals (UK and US judges, attorneys, etc.) speak legal English.
Professor Adrian Briggs, Professor of Private International Law at Oxford University (UK), says: “Those of us who have learned to express ourselves in legal English gained our knowledge by indirect, accidental means: experience tends to help us to recognise what is right and to have a feel for what is wrong”.
What does it mean that English lawyers gained their legal English knowledge by indirect and accidental ways? It exactly means that they learned legal English as Spanish, Hungarian, Finnish, German law students learnt Spanish, Hungarian, Finnish or German legal language: while learning law itself. As they learnt law, they also learnt the legal language.
What does it mean specifically that English law students learnt legal English while studying law itself? It means that in their studies they read and learnt a lot of laws, read a lot of court cases and judgments, and in so doing, they came across a number of legal terms, and they saw their context, and saw what verbs, nouns, adjectives and complements are used with these terms (these are called collocations).
For example, in the context of evidencing, they read sentences like this: (1) The plaintiff has had the opportunity to present his evidence in support of his position. They instantly see and learn one verb (present) and a complement (support of position). Or: (2) Unless the person proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the property or proceeds is not gambling equipment…
They instantly see and learn one more verb (prove), an adverb (by preponderance of), and a complement (that + subject + verb).
This is how they learn to use for example the term ’evidence’. One by one. Slowly and surely. Unfortunately, it is quite a lengthy process to learn legal English this way, requiring studies for 4-5 years, and requiring reading many hundreds of thousand pages.
In addition to such verbs, nouns, adjectives and complements, they also learn the typical sentence patterns underlying legal English sentences. For example, how to say that an item or thing is accepted by a court as evidence in a case?
When an UK or US law student read in a law or in a court document sentences like: (1) Confession of a person imprisoned and in irons, under an accusation of having committed a capital offence, is admissible in evidence against him, if… (2) The plaintiffs also contend that the contract about which the defendants testified should not have been admitted into evidence. (3) The existence of bloodstains at or near a place where violence has been inflicted is relevant and admissible in evidence.
they will quickly learn from such sentences the underlying sentence patterns like this: statement + is + admissible + in evidence instrument + is admitted + into evidence item + is + admissible + in evidence Then they can freely adjust the sentence patterns to create their sentences: they can put them in the past or future tense, according to their need, to express their message.
This is how US and UK law students learn legal English, they learn how to use legal terms properly. The good news is that we do not need to spend 4-5 years at a UK or US law school to learn legal English, and we do not need to read hundreds of thousands of pages to learn term usage, either. All we have to do is read the guide showing term usage. You will know a lot of things in it, and you will welcome some of them as your long term friends, and you will read through the new ones, and together you will have a complete and comprehensive and detailed knowledge about how to use legal terms at native pro level.
Knowing collocations and sentence patterns are thus the key and secret to native pro excellence in legal English.
With the help of the guide and the sentence patterns, you will be able to write legal English texts instantly and without delay, and not after 4-5 years of studying law, and do that at the level of native professionals (UK and US judges, attorneys and lawyers.
Please let me hand over to you my FREE guide, the first step in excelling in legal English at native pro level, describing in detail how to use the term ’evidence’, and which guides to you write legal English texts at the standard of native professionals, in the topic of evidencing.
The free guide is available by clicking on menu item register at www.legalenglish.store. May you excel in your career in legal translations! Kind regards Szabó László Yale law course TOLES advanced legal translator and terminologist (Eng-Hun) since 2001