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Lawyers at work. Professional titles

Although many kinds of people working in or studying legal affairs are referred to as lawyers, the word really describes a person who has become officially qualified to act in certain legal matters because of examinations he has taken and professional experience he has gained. Most countries have different groups of lawyers who each takes a particular kind of examination in order to qualify to do particular jobs. In Japan, a lawyer must decide whether he wants to take the examination to become an attorney, a public prosecutor or a judge. In England, the decision is between becoming a barrister or a solicitor. Barristers specialize in arguing cases in front of a judge and have right to be heard, the right of audience, even in the highest courts. They are not paid directly by clients, but are employed by solicitors.

Judges are usually chosen from the most senior barristers, and once they cannot continue to practice as barristers. Solicitors do much of the initial preparation for cases which they then hand to barristers, as well as handling legal work which does not come before a court, such as drawing up wills, and dealing with litigation which is settled out of court. Solicitors also have a right of audience in lower courts, but in higher courts, such as the Court of Appeal, they must have a barrister argue their client's case. In general, it can be said that a barrister spends most of his time either in a courtroom or preparing his arguments for the court and solicitor spends most of his time in an office giving advice to clients, making investigations and preparing documents. Many people believe the distinction between barristers and solicitors should be eliminated in England, as has already happened in Australia. The government is considering various proposals, but there are arguments for maintaining, as well removing, the division.



Although lawyers come from a variety of backgrounds and do a variety of work, as a profession they often appear rather remote and difficult to understand. Perhaps one reason for this is legalese the strange and incomprehensible language so many lawyers seem to write and speak. This is not just a feature of English-speaking lawyers. People all over the world complain that they cannot understand court proceedings or legal documents.

Professions have their own jargon. The use of some special words can be justified because they refer to matters which are important to a particular profession but not important to most people in every day life. But sometimes it seems that jargon is a way of creating a mystery about a profession, of distinguishing people on the inside (economist, doctors, teachers) from those on the outside.

In recent times lawyers have made efforts to make their profession less mysterious. After all, their job is supposed to be to clarify matters for the public, not to make them more complicated! This is particularly so in the United States where lawyers openly advertise their services to the public and where special clothes and wigs, still a feature of the English system, have mostly disappeared. But it seems likely that legalese will survive for a long time to come. One reason for this is that old documents and reports of old cases have great importance in law, particularly in common law systems. Another reason is that rewriting laws is a slow and painstaking process. The words must try to cover every eventuality, because people are always looking for a legal loophole, a way of avoiding a legal duty by making use of an ambiguity or an omission in law. Consequently if there is an existing law which has worked for a long time, even a law which contains old language in long and complex sentences, it is easier to retain the old law than write a new one. Even when a government draws up a new law it is often guided by the wording of an older law.

But perhaps the main reason that legalese still survives lies in the nature of law itself. Laws are attempts to implement justice, government policy, or just plain common sense. In order to be effective they must be as unambiguous as possible. Everyday language is often very ambiguous, but this does not matter if we are dealing with familiar situations or talking to people we know. The law, however, has to regulate relations between people who neither know nor trust each other and who are in unfamiliar situations. It is an unfortunate necessity that this sometimes requires complex language which has to be explained by experts.

English legalese is characterized by:

1. Words and expressions which have no meaning for non-lawyers, some of them coming from Latin or French. For example: replevin the right to take back goods which were illegally removed; nemo dat (quod non habet) the principle that a person has no right to property acquired from a person who did not legally own it; cy-pres the court's right to grant property to another similar charity if the charity the donor hoped to benefit does not exist.

2. Words which look like ordinary English but have a special meaning when used by lawyers. For example: nuisance interference with someone's enjoyment of land; consideration something given up on making a contract.

3. Formal words which most people understand but which are very old-fashioned. For example: hereinafter from now on; below in this document; aforesaid previously mentioned.

4. Very long sentences containing many clauses which limit and define the original statement.

Match synonyms from columns A and B.


A (from the text) B
1) affair 1) charge/protest/criticize/find fault
2) eliminate 2) realize/fulfil/put into action
3) various 3) case/matter/concern
4) complain 4) vague/obscure/doubtful
5) reason 5) attempt/endeavour/try
6) implement 6) different/diverse
7) loophole 7) evasion/trick
8) effort 8) exclude/remove/abolish
9) ambiguous 9) define/classify
10) distinguish 10) cause/motive/grounds
11) eventuality 11) lapse, error, blunder
12) omission 12) possibility, chance, prospect


Look through the text again and decide if the following statements are true or false. Explain your choice.


1) Most countries have similar groups of lawyers who take a particular kind of examination in order to qualify to do particular jobs.

2) Barristers specialize in arguing cases in front of a judge and have the right to be heard.

3) Judges are usually chosen from the most senior barristers, and once appointed they can continue to practise as barristers.

4) Solicitors have a right of audience both in lower and higher courts.

5) Legalese will survive for a long time to come.

6) Special clothes and wigs are still main features of the English law system.

7) When a government draws up a new law it is often guided by the wording of an older law.

8) Laws are attempts to implement justice, government policy, or just plain common sense.


Ex. 7. Below is a list of tasks carried out by solicitors and barristers. Classify them into the appropriate column.

1) advising clients on general legal issues

2) advising clients on specialist legal issues

3) advising on tax matters

4) dealing with commercial transactions

5) advising on litigation

6) making wills

7) advocacy in lower courts

8) drafting of documents in connection with litigation

9) preparing cases

10) advocacy in all courts


Solicitors Barristers


TEXT 2. Use the information about functions of people of different legal professions in English law to fulfil the tasks that follow.


Date: 2016-03-03; view: 2647

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