JJUA55074U Advanced Legal English: Common Law Language, Reasoning, and Rhetoric

Volume 2015/2016

The intention of this course is to provide knowledge of the core concepts, terminology, and modes of reasoning used in British and American common law in order to provide students with the necessary linguistic and analytical tools for working with legal English at a professional level in an international setting.

This course provides an overview of the modes of expression and styles of argument used in the English and American common law tradition. The course will focus on how common law reasoning and rhetoric work and vary in different contexts and fields of law. Students learn the basic concepts and interpretive methods used by lawyers in the common law tradition and how to use them to craft legal arguments that resonate with common law reasoning. In addition to a theoretical background on interpretive method and rhetoric, the course provides a hands-on approach by having students read and analyze case law, statutes, contract provisions, and other relevant legal documents and make arguments for and against various interpretations of particular provisions or legal issues in written and oral form.
Students will be expected to participate in class discussions based on reading assignments. In addition, students will be required to participate in moot court arguments based on fact scenarios related to the reading assignments. There will also be short in-class and out-of-class writing assignments. Among other things, the course will focus on the following areas:
• Various tropes of argumentation and persuasion used in common law reasoning
• Various common law theories of statutory construction and legal interpretation and how to incorporate them into legal argumentation
• The characteristics of the common law system: the role of stare decisis, the distinction between common law and equity, the accusatorial v. inquisitorial approach to justice
• Core terminology in contracts, torts, company law, and criminal law
• Core terminology in public international law
• Various rhetorical tropes in contracts, torts, company law, criminal law, and international law
• The organization of the British and American court systems and the roles various professionals such as judges, attorneys, solicitors, and barristers play in the common law system as well as the role of juries
• Differences in terminology and modes of expression in criminal, civil, and appellate procedure and administrative law

Learning Outcome

- Identify and explain various rhetorical tropes frequently used in common law and formulate arguments based on these tropes
- Identify and reflect critically on common law methods of interpretation and use them in legal argument
- Analyze case law, contract provisions, and statutes and reflect critically on their interpretation
- Identify the proper terminology depending on topic area and legal tradition: the student should be able to identify the relevant field of law and use language and terminology appropriate to it
- Identify and explain the core concepts and terminology used generally in British and American common law and in specific areas of law such as contracts, torts, company law, and criminal law
- Present an understanding of the British and American legal traditions and explain the similarities and differences between the two systems
- communicate and formulate her/his knowledge and arguments professionally and in a linguistically-correct manner that is structured and coherent

Frederick Schauer, Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New Introduction to Legal Reasoning (2009)
And materials assembled by instructor (approx. 500 pages).

Command of basic English grammar and vocabulary
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 241
  • Seminar
  • 34
  • Total
  • 275
Type of assessment
Oral defence, 20 min
Oral exam based on synopsis, 20 minutes
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Exam period

December 7-11, 2015 (preliminary dates)