Legal English Courses: Everything You Need to Know in 2021
There is no doubt that today, English is the most common language in a globalised legal world. English, therefore, is often a prerequisite for working as an international lawyer.
With the emergence of English as the language of international business, legal English has become even more important in the international legal sphere. It is the common legal language, which all non-native English speaking lawyers use in their international transactions.
Legal English is a specialised variety of the English language (vocabulary, expressions and syntax) that is used by legal professionals and within legal documents. It is a distinct type of English and very different from ordinary conversational English.
It is therefore very useful for anyone intent on becoming a lawyer or attorney (or already practicing law), or any professional within the field of law, to undertake a course that is specifically designed to teach the most important aspects of legal English.
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What is a Legal English course?
There are a wide range of legal English courses available, including in-person options, online programmes and blended courses which offer both. Courses vary in intensity and focus, but most offer a syllabus which is designed to help students:
- Improve confidence and fluency when using English in a professional legal capacity and understand specialist legal vocabulary
- Learn about specialist legal concepts and topics, including company law, employment law, contracts, property law, and more.
- Hone professional skills such as note-taking and writing skills
- Network with other legal students and professionals from around the world
- Find out more about the host country's legal system and how it compares to their own
Of course, it is also important for legal professionals working internationally to be able to converse and collaborate on a more general level with colleagues and clients.
For this reason, many courses — including the English Plus Law course at Kings — offer a general english component to complement the more specialist elements of their legal English programmes.
Most specialist legal English courses will require students to have a pre-existing knowledge of English, most likely to a minimum level of Lower Intermediate. The majority however will not require you to have completed a TOEFL or IELTS test and have a TOEFL score or IELTS score to show.
Why is legal English important for lawyers?
These days, it is vital for anyone training to be a lawyer, or other legal professional (such as paralegals or legal secretaries), within an international capacity to gain knowledge of legal English alongside wider English language skills. This applies to both native and non-native English speakers.
Here, we look at a few of the many reasons why.
To get a job within the competitive field of international law
The spread of international legal work has extended the use of legal English — once something only used by lawyers in English-speaking countries — into a global phenomenon.
Because of this, unless you are able to speak English and deal with legal English effectively then you have little chance of becoming an international lawyer.
Lawyers who operate internationally, who communicate with clients and other professionals across different cultures, need to have both an understanding of these now global legal terms, as well as general English proficiency. Generally speaking, clients prefer not to use a lawyer who they can only communicate with through an interpreter, and as the dominant language in global law, those who can't speak English to a high level will be at a disadvantage in the competitive job market of today.
To be a proficient lawyer or legal professional
Because the meaning of words is so crucial to the craft of being a lawyer, there is a real need for students to use words precisely — in other words, for them to have a very high proficiency in the language overall, including a knowledge of technical and legal language.
Clear communication is crucial in legal practice — without it, cases can be won or lost. Whether it's oral communication or written communication, precision and ability with language and terminology is key to success in the legal world.
Legal English at Kings
At Kings, we offer a specialist English Plus Law programme at our London school.
Taught by a specialist legal English teacher, who has extensive personal experience of working within the British legal system, it provides students with a mix of General English classes (15 hours per week) and specific legal English lessons (6 hours per week).
The English Plus Law course at Kings is open to students with an English level of Lower Intermediate.
The legal English component focuses on the following key areas:
- Legal terminology, including criminal vocabulary, types of court, employment law, intellectual property, company law, property law
- Presentation skills, formal letter writing
- Educational visits
- Legal case studies
Core example subjects include:
- Introduction to legal English
- Company Law
- Employment Law
- Intellectual Property
- Property Law
- Legal Practitioners
- European Union Law
- Debtor-Creditor Law
- Competition Law
Students visit law firms and legal institutions as part of this course.
Example visits include:
- The Supreme Court
- The Houses of Parliament
- The Rolls Building
- The Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court)
- The Law Society
- Croydon Crown Court
- Firm of solicitors (firm to be chosen in relation to students’ areas of interest)
- Magistrate’s Court
- The Royal Courts of Justice
Recently, English Plus Law students also had the opportunity to attend the hearing of a case at the Supreme Court, the final court of appeal for UK Civil Law. Teacher Sue Brice explained the proceedings.
"With a strong cohort of Law students interested in Civil Law and Procedure, our first law trip of 2019 took us to Court 1 of the Supreme Court to observe Vedanta Resources PLC and Another v Lungowe and Others, an appeal case turning on the legal issue of whether a parent company has liability alongside its UK subsidiary for adverse human rights impacts occurring abroad.
During our hour-long observation of the case, our law students focused on the parties, the facts and the legal issues, using key legal vocabulary studied in the previous week to assist them in following the legal arguments.
The court room was packed with interested parties and the press, and the next day, our students were able to compare the details they had noted with the Reuters report on this landmark issue."
Hear what some of our previous English Plus Law students had to say about the course.
“We’ve learned a lot of legal vocabulary and also how the civil system in the UK works. I think the Supreme Court visit was great. I thought it was really cool when we witnessed a case. It was about murder, and it was really interesting. I was impacted because it was so different from Brazil, in the way that the trial takes place and the lawyers work.
I came here to improve my English to find a good job in Brazil. I’m studying Law in Brazil so the vocabulary would be useful and important for me, so that’s why I came here." Laura, from Brazil
"I’ve been a law student in Thailand for 7 years. I’m finding it (the course) very interesting – not just the content itself, but the ability to exchange ideas about different types of law with other students…because we come from different countries, the systems are all different. Right now there are five different nationalities.
I’d like to do business law, therefore English is very important." Pang, from Thailand
"I’m a lawyer in Istanbul and I need a certificate in English to work in this field. I took English Plus Law which was very useful — we learnt lots of vocabulary and did court visits. The teacher is very educated and she can easily teach you about law structures. I thought initially about going to New York, but it’s nice to be here (in London) – I’m happy.
I want to do corporate law. Last year I was a trainee lawyer and I realised that I have to improve my English — you have to know English, you have many clients who you need to communicate with in English." Didem, from Turkey
"I have just finished a law degree. I finished in December and came here in May – I was studying for a test in that time, as you have to do an exam to become a lawyer in Brazil. I came here to get more vocabulary. We just did employment law and I did that for a year in Brazil so I can see how it works here, and in Brazil, and can take some ideas back home with me. I’ve also liked learning vocabulary, that is very important, and also the experience of going to the courts.
We have a new discipline every two weeks – two weeks ago we were studying employment law and now we’re on international property law. When we change we go to a new court, so we have lots of new experiences." Lucas, from Brazil
Ready to take a Legal English course?
At Kings, it is possible to enrol on our English Plus Law course all year round.
We hope that this article has helped you understand more about why legal English courses are important, and what to expect from your course.
If you’re ready to book, you can do so via the Kings Booking portal.
If you would like receive more detailed information about the Kings English Plus Law course, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.