English as a foreign language in the modern working environment. The importance of Legal English in international law offices

Textbook, 2019

85 Pages




List of figures

1 Introduction

2 Problem statement

3 Theoretical Part
3.1 Definition of legal English
3.2 Historical Background
3.3 Differences between general English and Legal English
3.4 Benefits of using Business English in International law firms
3.5 Disadvantages of using Business English in International law firms

4 Methodical Part
4.1 Theoretical Background
4.2 Exploratory questions and hypotheses
4.3 Operationalization
4.4 Data inquiry
4.5 Data analysis

5 Results
5.1 Canada
5.2 India
5.3 Russia
5.4 China
5.5 Japan
5.6 Brazil
5.7 South Korea
5.8 Germany

6 Discussion
6.1 Differences between the countries in regard to legal language
6.2 Similarities between the countries in regard to legal language

7 Summary

8 Recommendation for action
8.1 Training for young professionals
8.2 Training for advanced professionals

9 Prospects

Guideline for qualitative interviews
Transcription of the interviews


List of figures

Illustration 1: Procedure in Canada

Illustration 2: Procedure in India

Illustration 3: Procedure in Russia

Illustration 4: Procedure in China

Illustration 5: Procedure in Japan

Illustration 6: Procedure in Brazil

Illustration 7: Procedure in South Korea

Illustration 8: Procedure in Germany

1 Introduction

„A lawyer’s greatest weapon is their words… (He) has it at his or her disposal a veritable armory of skills in the sciences of communication and persuasion and it is expected that he or she will apply those tools in appropriate situations“ (Fandl, 2013, p. 1). Understanding the specific structure of the technical language, advising clients or drafting a document make it crucial for practicing lawyers, attorneys and other experts involved to master the language they use for professional purposes.

Recent historical developments such as internationalization and globalization make it inevitable to be able to communicate successfully on a global level. It can be seen everywhere that proceedings develop more into an international issue than ever before. English is one of the most frequently used languages for this specific purpose. Even in countries with another native tongue, English is the chosen language (Clark, 2012). For a partner working in an international law firm “language skills are critical because, as international lawyers, we apply our trade with words. It is certainly something I look for when I recruit, if a candidate is not fluent in other languages I generally would not consider them” (Ahmed, 2015). Being able to properly communicate in English is a major selection criterion, especially for young professionals lacking practical experience.

Developments like the growth of international relations with clients, offices and colleagues that can be attributed to the expansion of multinational firms, lead to an increase in the importance of being proficient in the language. Especially with a profession that is dependent on immaculate and explicit language, an amplified knowledge is a key factor to success.

Competence starts with thorough and qualitative education. For a lawyer, this implies law school. “Students need a global mindset, and language skills are a part of that. It’s absolutely crucial considering the competition in the jobs market today” (Ahmed, 2015). Law students should be aware of the increased competition due to internationalization and globalization. It is easier than ever before to graduate with an internationally accepted degree. With the fulfilment of some decisive requirements like adequate legal education or training, a lawyer may practice in a state different to the one he graduated from his higher educational school (International Bar Association, 2001).

More and more law faculties include a special course for this purpose. Law students at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia require the participation at a „legal course for business“ (Universidad de los Andes, 2018). But even being enrolled in an Anglophone university, for example, the American University of Washington, requires participating in classes that focus on correct legal writing and drafting in English (American University of Washington, College of Law, 2018).

These regulations already hint the importance of Legal English on an international basis. However, some relevant factors still seem to be unclear when it comes to evaluating the relevance for internationally active law firms. The following problem statement revolves around this issue in order to react to the situation in the most efficient way.

2 Problem statement

Legal English plays a major role for communication and practicing in law firms globally. Offices involved in international jurisdictions are reliant on this language and its use affects the outcome of processes, lawsuits and even success rates. Several studies confirm that English as the lingua franca is a major influencing factor in determining employment and even wage for the concerned person (Isphording, 2014).

Quite a lot references concerning this special language serve the purpose of supporting law students in their classes. It is noticeable that most of those resources are designated to academic purposes only. The importance of English Legalese needs to be further analyzed and emphasized. For practicing lawyers and attorneys, it may be fundamental to be aware of the impact of correct language use and this also applies to foreign speakers as well.

This thesis examines the role of English Legalese in the legal context for law firms not only residing in an Anglophone area. In order to debate this essential question, a definition of its peculiar features, a historical background and the demonstration of the differences between Standard English and this specific language represent the needed requirements to analyze the role of English Legalese in detail.

As already stated, nowadays English is a frequently used language for legal purposes and there have to be certain reasons why it has gained this big recognition.

The thesis gives some relevant reasons why applying this language is a very efficient process, yet the downsides of using a very specific language need to be considered. Therefore, the subsequent part of this thesis discusses why it might not be ideal to solely apply English as the preliminary language, or even having one dominant language in general. This analysis can be seen as a prerequisite for conducting the methodical part of the thesis. It analyzes the importance of legal English for international active lawyers from several countries around the world. Therefore, relevant data will be assembled, analyzed and interpreted. The results will help to determine the importance of Legal English for international Law firms and for practicing lawyers today.

For a globally engaged office, relevant determinants such as communicational skills are crucial to be aware of in regard to Human Resources management. Personnel selection, talent management and personnel development can only be successful when the right criteria to analyze, improve and also to monitor the right competences are available. If the assumption made in this thesis proves to be a relevant factor of success, Management should be very aware of the importance and impact this language can have on influencing the overall prosperity of the company.

3 Theoretical Part

3.1 Definition of legal English

Three quarters of the world’s business communication is taking place in English as well as almost 80 percent of information stored on computers worldwide (Mydans, 2007).

This major influence makes it crucial for businessmen and professionals to be fluent in this language. But, being able to communicate in common English is not the only prerequisite for adequate and sustainable knowledge. Every language has its peculiarities and Legal English does not seem to be an exception.

Big transformations in educational systems such as the Bologna Process and the European- American Consortium for legal Education (EACLE) call for a unified reformation. More and more students and law faculty teachers want to actively take part in legal systems outside of their national jurisdiction. Adding to this, Governments worldwide are very interested in improving bilateral relations. For example, the World Trade Organization supported the introduction of a harmonized and less nationally dependent structure, which contributed to a freer trade internationally. These movements call for homogeneous regulations as to legal aspects worldwide. With this, there comes the manifestation of laws and rules that are concerned. Therefore, a widely known, accepted and practical language is needed. This led to the increase in the importance of legal English not only in native speaking jurisdictions, but globally (Sellers, 2008).

It is a language of professionals engaged in legal aspects of life. But as only a small percentage of the world’s population is a native English- speaker, it is crucial for lawyers, judges, students and further groups affected to not only being able to master standard English, but also its special legal language. When „the traditional leisurely and purpose free stroll through the landscape of (standard) English language seemed no longer appropriate in the harsher realities of the market place“, a new generation of English for Special Purposes (ESP) was introduced (Hutchinson, Waters, 1987, p. 7). The development will be analyzed more elaborated in the next part of this thesis, but it is important to mention that this language is centered on the functional needs and therefore, special grammar and vocabulary, due to different needs and reasons is being used (Scotto di Carlo, 2015).

English Legalese is a „specialized type of language which is spread among a set of people, as students of Law, lawyers, judges whose main intent is to interact among themselves for professional needs through a powerful unambiguous means of communication“ (Scotto di Carlo, 2015, p. IX). Most of the time, it is being used for drafting a contract or writing a special document and it can barely be heard in a conversation. Educating young professionals and students in Legal English is a crucial part of every educational path with the prospect of an international legal career. As globalization and internationalization influence more and more every single aspect of business live, even lawyers need to adapt to such conditions (Stürner, 2016).

National regularizations often do not suffice to properly close a case due to the named reasons. More and more procedures are crossing borders and therefore, a homogeneous language is needed in order for professionals to communicate adequately.

„It gives away no secret to observe that lawyers have their own unique discipline and approach to the resolution of legal problems. Not surprisingly, there are laws about determining the law“ (Perell, 1987, p.11). Several regulations decree a certain way of drafting and applying Legalese and therefore provide a framework for lawyers and attorneys they can and have to rely on. Those laws all have an ancient background from a medieval period that lay the foundations for all further developments in this specific and technical language. The following part is dedicated to exploring the past of Legal English in order to retrace how the style of Legalese still applied today has developed through its existence since more than 950 years.

3.2 Historical Background

Before the Norman Conquest took place in 1066 A.D., some major changes in the formation of the general population occurred. In the early medieval period, there was no homogeneous legislation in the seven kingdoms of Anglo- Saxon England. The first and oldest existing legal text of all Germanic countries was issued by King of Kent Æthelberht in 602 A.D. His will was to create a law system that regulated the life of all of his citizens. The attempt to unify law and order can be seen as the first influence to harmonize subjects´ rights. However, as the separation of the kingdom into several subdivisions was strong during that time, his regulations only had a small impact on the whole country (Greenway, 1996). With the Norman invasion in 1066 A.D., William the conqueror introduced a unification of law legislation and administration. These legalizations were based on precedents and updated on a regular basis. This differed common law from Roman law, which had its pre- stablished general rules that had to be respected and which served as a guideline for proper behavior (Scotto di Carlo, 2015).

In the Norman period that lasted until 1362, most documents were published in Latin and French. Those languages had the reputation of being elite, but since higher education was a luxury during that time, the commonality was being excluded. As the majority of the population on the British Isles spoke English, the use of a foreign language was seen as a limitation of the populations´ comprehension of their rights and duties. This led to the early adoption of legal English in the British Territory. Centuries of several social and historical events caused changes in this system of legislation.

In 1483, the first English Act of Parliament was published and following this, it became the official language of legal institutions. The „Act for Turning the books of law and all processes and proceedings in court of justice in English“ had a major impact in 1650. All these circumstances led to an increase of specific phrases used by professionals practicing in English. Quite a lot of essential words used in legal English today, date back to this period. Terms like „aforesaid“, „hereby“, „contract“ or „tort“ are still frequently used to create elaborated documents (Scotto di Carlo, 2015).

More specific drafting instructions regularized the guidelines of the correct application in legal contexts in the 19th century. Scholars perceived the strong connection between language and law, as the latter is one of the main social institutions regulating behavior in communities. These researchers identified influences on the development of legal English by several disciplines like sociology, psychology, linguistics and anthropology. This expansion of interests subsequently increased the use and development of legal English that can be seen today. Since this period, English has been one of the most spoken languages in the world. This leads to a frequent use in international legal contexts as well. As every language has its own characteristics, provoked by cultural and social conventions, specific customs have evolved and need to be considered when drafting in English by foreign users as well (Scotto di Carlo, 2015)

These peculiarities become distinct regarding the difference to general English that consequently adapts itself to modern speakers and evolves constantly. The following section illustrates the distinctions between the mentioned languages in order to illustrate these features.

3.3 Differences between general English and Legal English

As mentioned above, the ancient law language with its innate norms leads to a very idiosyncratic grammar and practice and partially some striking discrepancies to regular English.

Usually, a language adapts to its users by replacing and modifying outdated grammar and vocabulary, as it can be seen in common English. For example, the pronoun „thou“ has almost completely disappeared from modern linguistic usage. Whereas in the times of Shakespeare, this word was frequently used to address another person. Nowadays, in almost every English- speaking region, it has been replaced with „you“ (Wales, 1996). Other examples, that do not seem to be used frequently in modern language are the pronominal adverbs „whereof“, „herein“ or „thereat“ and further derivatives like „-after“, „-before“, „-with“ „-by“ and „-upon“, that can be applied in the same way (Mellinkoff, 2004).

One of the most outstanding discrepancies is the fact that Legal language has certain lexical features that haven’t changed since its origin in Norman times. There are some terms that mostly come from a technical background. The strong influence of French and Latin lead to terms like „expiration“, „termination“ or „assurance“ (Scotto di Carlo, 2015). There are some of these terms that have been integrated into general English and occur in day to day conversations, but still, a good amount of these words seem to be alienate, even for native speakers.

The mixture of English, Latin and French during the Norman period caused the use of doublets and triplets in Legalese. It is quite unpopular to apply this style of writing in modern English, but it is a central and usual part of a lawyer’s text. One can often find expressions like „terms and conditions“, „lands and tenements“ or „will and testament“ (Mykhailova, n.d).

Layman often struggle with the unusual word order and lack of punctuation. The strong French influence led to a specific style of word order, as following example shows: „the provisions for termination hereinafter appearing or will at the cost of the borrower forthwith comply with the same“ (Scotto di Carlo, 2015). This sentence also highlights the insufficient use of punctuation. In more present days, lawyers seem to include more of this linguistic device, but a major difference to standard English can still be seen (Mellinkoff, 2004).

This comparison has to be considered as a current analysis of Standard English and Legal English and it has to be kept in mind that a language is strongly influenced by its speakers and its environment in general. This passage cannot be seen as a complete reproduction of all existing differences, since there are too many details that can’t be displayed in this thesis. Furthermore, as stated above, „the dynamic nature of any standard means that this usage is subject to constant revision. It is this adjustment to ongoing change which makes standards of English entities which have to be continually redefined and repositioned“ (Hickey, 2012, p.23).

The comparison of the two languages clearly shows the differences of their usage. Legalese is strongly influenced by its historical rules. Nevertheless, it is a frequently used language for legal purposes. This leads to the question why it is that commonly seen on a global level. The following part centers on answering this question by outlining the benefits of its use for lawyers and other professionals.

3.4 Benefits of using Business English in International law firms

„Lawyers prefer to use documents that have been tested in operation. They prefer the established to the novel, the familiar to the new“ (Butt, 2013, p. 6). Being a natural human trade, this characteristic makes sure that the performance is as good as possible. Every time a variation is introduced, it takes a while to adapt and get used to these frame conditions. Furthermore, actions that the brain is unaccustomed to, take more energy to conduct, which is a major reason why humans hesitate to change a habit, independent of the concerned topic (Graybiel, 2008).

Adding to this, the principle of „stare decisis“ comes into action, which means that „lawyers defer to past judicial decisions, moving from them only reluctantly“ (Butt, 2013, p. 9). The fact that professionals are being accompanied by traditional Legalese throughout their whole career path makes them deeply rooted into using a familiar legal language.

Skillful writing is another argument for using Legal English as a professional language. „What is generally denominated Legal language is in reality a mere technical language, calculated for eternal duration, best suited to preserve those memorials, which are intended for perpetual rules of action“ (Blackstone, 1867, p. 1295). Sir William Blackstone, one of her majesties personal lawyers, compares English Legalese to the antique pyramids in Egypt. They are of dignified character, having been worshipped ever since their construction. Although new and seemingly improved techniques of architecture have developed, the pyramids are one of the most impressive examples of persistent and high- quality architecture in the world. The same applies to legal English, as it is an approved technical language, serving for a higher purpose of determining the life of all civilization.

Any language or tradition that has been kept alive since a long time, has some certain items that lead to its implementation and the seemingly irrevocable character. Legal English tradition has evolved almost a millennium ago and its basic concept still is being used frequently. It is nearly the only specific kind of language existing in its almost original form since medieval times. This militates in favor of keeping the tradition alive, as a tongue, that has survived major reforms and transformations and therefore seems to be very resilient and assertive (Butt, 2013).

Moreover, especially a lot of young professionals are glad to have distinct frame conditions that provide security as how to draft correctly. The more precedent examples and literary sources can be found, the easier it gets for inexperienced advocates to articulate their business in an elaborated style (Holdsworth, 1938).

However, especially in the past 30 years, there have been several demands for reorientation in order to simplify the learning process for beginners and foreign speakers. The specific grammar and vocabulary rules also have their drawbacks that need to be considered and even lead to the consequence of reconsidering the use of traditional Legalese. A movement in the 1960s called for an easier language to make the content accessible, even to laymen. The plain- language trend continues to affect the stability of traditional legal English (Butt, 2013). The reasons for adapting legal texts to a modern language are presented in following to outline some reasons that show the negative sides of using Legal English in international law firms.

3.5 Disadvantages of using Business English in International law firms

When using a clear and simple style, every person interested in the document can easily understand its content. With this, the time for understanding the message fully and the danger of misinterpretation may be decreased to a limited extension. This attempt of simplification supports the use of the technical language. The process needs to be done carefully in order to maintain the significance of relevant expressions and terms (Butt, 2013).

The usual use of grammar and vocabulary facilitates the organization of the information in a way that the general audience is used to. There even exist legal documents like the South African Consumer Protection Act by the Republic of Africa (2008, p. 62) demanding that „an ordinary consumer of the class of persons for whom (it) is intended, with average literacy skills and minimal experience as a consumer of the relevant goods or services, could be expected to understand the content, significance …of (it) without undue effort…” With examples like this, the attempt to make the content of professional documents accessible stresses how relevant it is that the persons concerned can fully understand its meaning. Using an elaborated and almost foreign language makes it harder to fully retrace the document´s statement and it can even lead to confusion regarding the content.

A juxtaposition of the original and the rewritten rule number 8(2)(e) from the US Federal Court Rules undermines the stated argument. The original version says „When two or more statements are made in the alternative and one of them is made independently would be sufficient, the pleading is not to made insufficient by the insufficiency of one or more of the alternative statements“ (Federal Register of the United States, 1975, p. 418). In comparison with this, the plain English version is as follows: „If a party makes alternative statements, the pleading is sufficient if any one of them is sufficient.“ (Kimble, 2007, p. 46). This example does not only show that the latter is easier to grasp, but its length is way more condensed. This is another disadvantage of Legal English as its grammar asks for extensive sentences. In some cases, the opposite applies, as specific terms need further information, but in general, one can say that plain English is more effective in making its message understandable and this not only for laymen. Lawyers oftentimes need to work against a deadline, eloquent language makes it easier to draft and read a document. A study shows that plain language versions of a text are one- third to one- half faster understood by professionals than the same information written in traditional language (Eagleson, 1991).

With simplification comes the possibility that fewer errors occur in drafting a legal document. A very complicated sentence structure makes it harder to analyze any occurred mistakes, and even have a higher possibility of a court decision in favor of the accused due to misinterpretation and misunderstanding (Eagleson, 1990). The Plain English Campaign (2018) requests simplification of all legal texts and undermines this statement by giving descriptive examples. Traditional Legalese states: “High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process”. This regulation can be rephrased to simply stating that it is necessary to ensure good training and schools in order to achieve qualitative learning results.

By adapting the documents to a modern and easy language, it is quite possible that this process might save a notable sum of incurring costs. For one reason, increasing the error rate contributes to this strongly, but also the amount of time that can be saved by developing a far less complex draft. Furthermore, several examples show that offering client- friendly texts can even boost the business. A bank´s attempt in redrafting into a plain language caused further incomes in the amount of $11 million (Pease, 2012).

The two recent passages aimed to highlight pros and cons of Legal English and its longstanding style of drafting. There are definitely various reasons that make it traceable why any adjustments needn’t be considered. Yet, there are some reasons that make a request to reconsider the present beliefs.

For a practicing lawyer, this discussion is a very present topic that depicts a crucial tool for the daily profession. This thesis wants to analyze the importance of Legal English for international law firms in order to reflect the present opinion of some of these experts. Following, the analysis will be introduced, conducted and evaluated.

4 Methodical Part

4.1 Theoretical Background

Considering the current state of research that is mostly focused on education of English Legalese for young professionals or the historic background of this technical language, this thesis analyses the importance for law firms engaged in international affairs. The paper aims to demonstrate the relevance of qualification even for experienced specialists. The inquiry of data assembled in qualitative interviews with professionals in the mentioned category can also contribute to determining the demand and requirements for a significant field of professionals. This paper shall give relevant information for law firms in order to ensure the qualification of employees and serves as a hint for entrants to distinguish the qualifications needed in order to succeed in their profession.

4.2 Exploratory questions and hypotheses

As one can abstract from previous parts, the thesis analyzes the importance of legal English in international law firms. Apparently, the language is one major requirement for law students in some countries to successfully pass their final examinations. Furthermore, English is one of the most frequently used languages for business purposes globally. These factors lead to the emergence of the question, whether this emphasis can be justified by professionals working in law firms in cross- border businesses. Is being able to practice in English Legalese a necessity, or even a prerequisite for legal professionals in order to practice in international affairs? And can it even be a requirement to become successful and sought- after?

This paper aims to uncover the impact of the referred language being used in order to successfully perform in an attorney’s or lawyer’s profession. Law firms that are active in international jurisdictions are reliant on this language and its use affects the overall outcome. Therefore, the hypothesis of this paper states, that there is coherence in the frequency the language is being used in international law firms and the evaluation of its significance for business purposes.

With this statement made, one can deviate the null hypothesis which states that there cannot be found a significant connection between the frequency of use and its evaluated relevance in international contexts. In order to give an academic and scientific based answer, an actual description of the current state of the qualitative research is being conducted. With interviewing a relevant group of experts, the current state can be carved out. Thus allows giving an overview of the current opinion concerning legal English and its use and significance for practicing lawyers, attorneys and the like. With a procedure like this, it is not only possible to retrace the current assessment, but also offers the possibility to determine how to correspond to the research results. The fact that only a selected group of experts with long- standing experience will be incorporated, it might be possible that during the interviewing process, some useful ideas or inspirations may lead to improving the current situation of inexperienced or under-qualified employees, attorneys and other relevant groups involved in legal businesses.

4.3 Operationalization

In order to assemble meaningful results about the perception of the significance of legal English in international law firms, a selected group of professionals is being interviewed. Through personal inquiries the probability of assembling further insights is way higher than conducting quantitative research (Atieno, 2009). There is a certain frame consisting of some basic questions that will be posed in every interview. Through a guideline, a consecutive and effective course of conversation can take place. These questions all have in common that they are designed to promote discussion of a topic with more personal relevance. Without being too specific, the inquiry delivers a profound basis of data that allows gaining further insights into the topic and helps to depict the current situation for internationally active law firms.

By speaking one- on- one with the interviewees, it is desirable to respond to the individual process. Depending on the personal perception of the expert, the talk will head towards a direction that is considered as most important and seems to have the biggest impact on today’s situation. By this, it can be analyzed which topics are perceived most important. Therefore, it is essential to respond to every interviewee and their information.

Being attentive and flexible by posing appropriate and reasonable questions in order to dig deeper into the personal preferences is very important when selecting a procedure like this. Of course, a base frame serves as a direction; nevertheless, being able to pay attention and analyze the slightest expression and subliminal, faint indicator is a prerequisite for a successful research process. It is possible to analyze occurring emotional and behavioral reactions during the research process. Oftentimes, those incidents can be revealing and can undermine a statement or depict which topic or conclusion has to be classified in a certain way. Personal contact is an important benefit when conducting qualitative research and, in this case, is a vital factor for choosing this way of operationalization. The procedure of research needs to be set in advance. Only by approaching the experts in reasonable and comparable procedures makes sure that a relevant outcome can be expected. In order to proceed as structured and homogenous as possible and reasonable, a guideline for the interview has been developed. It focuses on ensuring that every interview contains all relevant questions and helps to follow the “red trail”, even when confronted with a variety of statements and interesting trains of thought. The guideline can be found in the Appendix at the end of this thesis. In order to assemble data that can be used to draw a conclusion on the importance of legal English in international law firms, the correct target group and a retraceable way of interviewing has to be chosen. The following section focuses on demonstrating the procedure chosen for this thesis.

4.4 Data inquiry

A stipulated requirement for selecting appropriate experts was that at least one proceeding was being held on an international level and regular contact to foreign clients, colleagues or official offices. This specification helps to diminish whether there have been any changes concerning the usage of English in the consulted offices. The candidates should all have experience with lawsuits in a foreign language for at least a decade.

To find a sufficient amount of professionals fitting into this target group, it is useful to have the according contacts to law firms globally. The author of this thesis is in a position of being legible to contact relevant firms due to regular collaboration with these professionals for business reasons.

The interviews are being conducted via Online- meetings. Globalization is a relevant factor in the development of the business world. This also influences the way of communication with interlocutors from a whole other country or even continent. With respect to emerging new ways and devices of communication, the collection of information for the bachelor thesis was made by using the new opportunities such as Facetime, WhatsApp Video call and Skype for interviewing the experts. It was intended to include visual aspects of communication in order to analyze facial expressions and gestures. A statement can be strongly supported and is easier interpreted in the right way, when observing the dialog partner is possible.

The iceberg model by Paul Watzlawick describes in his theory the essential fact of invisible communication. Only 20 percent of the important information is passed on verbally. The biggest part of the message consists of facial expression, gesticulation and the like (Portner, 2017). Therefore, the interviews all include video transmission. The aim was to notice a detail that has not been said but expressed by behavior or by displayed feelings.

The suitable experts were all contacted by Mail in order to inform about the intention of the interview. In this mail, the topic was presented and an explanation about the use of the assembled data informed the reader about the intention of the interviews. The target group was being informed about the rough outline of the interview in order to be prepared for the specific questions. The message included a request to participate in the interview because the data contributes to an academic and scientific purpose and can be a first impulse to improve the current situation for the target group. A proposal for a personal interview with a suggested timeframe was given at the end. Depending on the country of origin, it was always intended to find an appointment at an adequate time. Requesting for a different appointment was certainly an option, and the interviewer tried her best to find a timeframe that seemed the most convenient for the expert. Preparation of an extensive analysis is a key factor for success. With a defined time frame and a thought-through concept, the possibility of compiling relevant information increases strongly.

Following the conduct of the interviews, all the information collected through the conversations needed to be analyzed and processed in order to refer back to the initial research question.

Following, the procedure applied in this context will be presented.

4.5 Data analysis

Due to the fact that every interview had its individual process, no simple data evaluation could be made. It is necessary to evaluate every statement by itself. As mentioned earlier, the method of investigating was by conducting a video conversation. This made it possible to not only gather information by examining the spoken word, but also the essential and meaningful part of nonverbal communication. After every interview, the procedure was as follows: The recorded video was written down into a transcript, which can be found in the Appendix. Then the important and outstanding statements were marked and in the event of a need of clarification occured, some further research was being conducted. For correct interpretation, it was, for example, reasonable to refer to the named sources of legislation. This helped to fully comprehend the reaction and statements given by the attorneys and lawyers. After everything that has been stated, was completely understood and the main statement of the questioning was clearly recognizable, the next step was to review the video once more. This time, the focus was on analyzing the facial expressions and gestures undermining the statements of the interviewee. With the marked and analyzed core messages, this helped to undermine the meaning and personal opinion that sometimes was not entirely clear. So, if a statement could be interpreted in two ways, this additional analysis clearly showed the primary intention. With this further examination, the content was adequately prepared for getting the gist of the whole interview.

The following section will analyze the individual situation indicated in the personal interviews. The presentation of relevant information helps to draw a conclusion about the importance of Legal English in international law firms worldwide.

5 Results

For this bachelor thesis, eight professionals were interviewed. It was intended to question lawyers and attorneys from countries all over the world. Furthermore, the focus was on states that have at least one other official language or even a different one than English. In the following, each interview will be summarized including an overview of the relevant information that could be gathered throughout the conversation and some further research as well. The author’s intention to take facial expressions and gestures into account will also be elaborated in the following sections.

5.1 Canada

The Canadian patent attorney, who was being interviewed for the bachelor thesis, is employed to a big law firm with more than 7000 employees in over 50 cities worldwide. The national headquarters are located in Vancouver, Calgary, Montréal, Ottawa, Québec and Toronto. The official languages are both English and French. The latter is majorly spoken in the Québec area, however, the „Chartre de la langue française“ encourages and ensures the use of French in the country. This applies even to business and legal purposes. Every document drafted for official use is to be published both in English and French. They have both the same legal significance and therefore, either English or French can be used for trials, prosecutions and other legal conferences. It is important to mention that, in case the two versions of legislation differ from each other, the French version according to the law of constitution from 1867 prevails. This leads to the consequence that the former French legislature is being protected from foreign influences. This regulation is applicable for the province of Québec only and does not apply to the predominately English-speaking region of Canada (Éditeur officiel du Québec, 2017). The expert interrogated for the interview is based in the bilingual part and therefore, this particularity should be mentioned and considered for further analysis.

The internationally operating law firm predominately uses English for communication both with clients and colleagues. „With more than 4000 lawyers living in various countries, it is the most convenient“ to apply English as the main language for internal purposes (Interviewee No. 1, personal communication, 2018). Due to the many offices worldwide from Sidney to Rio de Janeiro, it is most commonly used for general purposes. Information sent to offices worldwide and proceedings that involve specialists from various countries are examples for usual circumstances for international communication. In cases where only a selection of local employees and resident clients is taking part, the option of communicating in the native tongue may be used. As the Canadian law prescribes to use both English and French for official purposes, the other language needs to be included into the process of developing a draft and the like. If a client based in Québec is in need of the attorney’s consultation, he may use both official languages. According to experiences of the attorney, the most common way of communication takes place in English. This is due to the fact that in specific cases the advice of another specialist may be needed. The process of prior translation would be quite extensive and therefore, it is intended to proceed in the most familiar language. In the event of a process with a native and nearby client, French is commonly used for the initial part of development. Another reason for the preliminary use of French is an incident that takes place with an office or client from France. Whichever language is used for the primary development of the documents does not exclude the translation of the official draft for the national office. Therefore, most documents are being sent bilingual.

The following illustration presents the procedure for communication and drafting in the Canadian law firm.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Illustration 1: Procedure in Canada

(Own depiction)

It becomes visible, that depending on the client´s language either English or French is chosen for drafting and communication. But in the end, all documents have to be filed bilingually.

The explicit legislation has been in force since its constitution from 1867 and recent developments such as globalization do not have that big of an influence to lead to the adaption of these laws. The regional legislation is very aware of its narrowing significance, yet it is protective of its traditional procedures. However, it needs to be mentioned that the legislated significance only prescribes an equal treatment and does not retain to a solely usage of French for legal purposes.

Regarding the educational part of legal language, the Canadian expert believes that training for language purposes is needed to properly practice in today’s business world. The big influence of globalization, that becomes more and more visible almost daily, does impact the Canadian business and educational situation as well. For practicing in the law firm, it is almost mandatory to be fluent and proficient in English and especially in its technical language for legal purposes. Especially the young French speaking professionals sometimes lack the knowledge that is needed, for example, for drafting a document in English. Canadian universities do not include a mandatory course for Legal English into their curriculum. McGill University in Montreal’s faculty of law, for example, offers the possibility to write examinations, essays and theses either in English or in French. The courses are being held in English; however, students have the opportunity to solely hand in their works in French (McGill University Faculty of law, 2018). If a student is not too experienced in the use of English, he can easily avoid learning how to apply legal English while his studies. This leads to the consequence that young professionals do have the ability of understanding English legal documents, but are not able to draft a document or contract. In the interview, it became clear that further action is needed. The proposal of adapting the educational system is one possible solution; another one would be to offer special trainings for the purpose of improving the lawyer’s knowledge. In the current situation, the law firm does not offer a special program for these employees. It is highly requested for an applicant to be efficient in the use of English for legal purposes and is seen as a prerequisite for successful practice.

Subsuming the nonverbal part of the conversation, it was noticeable that the expert was very aware of the importance of English for business purposes. He undermined his statements about the essential role the language plays in the whole company with adequate seriousness and willingness to discussing the topic. By referring to national legislation and citing the essential parts by heart, this showed how crucial it is to be well aware of the content these regulations have for daily businesses. However, it was noticeable that the interviewee tried to avoid a personal opinion and mostly referred to official legislation, occurring circumstances and other evidences. The lack of personal statements, especially concerning the in-house training of younger professionals might indicate that the attorney is not yet fully aware of the need of further education provided by the employer. He mentioned that being proficient in legal English is almost a necessity for new employees. This makes it appear as if every professional should be responsible for ensuring his abilities by himself.

To put it into a nutshell, legal English is a relevant part of a lawyer’s everyday tasks in Canada. Besides the proficiency in French, it is expected to be able to draft and negotiate in English, when entering a law firm. Language training needs to be managed by the employee, but should mostly consist of solely improving the skills that already have been educated in prior courses.


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English as a foreign language in the modern working environment. The importance of Legal English in international law offices
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Jura, Englisch, Recht, Marketing, Personalentwicklung, Coaching, Wirtschaftspsychologie, BWL, Management, Business English, lawyer, young professional, organizational psychology, adult education
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Anonymous, 2019, English as a foreign language in the modern working environment. The importance of Legal English in international law offices, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/460896


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