Legal drafting resource

I’ve been poring over Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Strategy, and Style, by Richard K. Neumann, Jr. It’s one of the few books left over from my brother-in-law’s recent years in law school—too good to sell back.

I highly recommend this reference text for legal translators dealing with the US system. The first sections cover the basics of American law and lay out the names of the documents you find at various stages of a legal process. Neumann includes samples of each type of document in the appendix. He explains how a lawyer thinks about the case before he writes it down, and the reasons for using certain terms over others. You learn about what phrases are real terms of art, and what phrases poor drafters made up. There are lots of little “write this, not that” lists throughout the sections. Written for lawyers, but I can’t think of a better guide for a legal linguist!

What are your favorite reference works for your subject matter area? Share away!


3 thoughts on “Legal drafting resource

  1. Dear Carolyn,
    The No-Nonsenses Guide to… series, published by New Internationalist, is a collection of little books covering a wide range of topics which are invaluable for translators. For example, the NNG to Global Finance, by Peter Stalker, makes an excellent, very readable introduction to modern financial architecture and virtually all key financial issues in 150-odd pages (pocket size!).
    Great blog, by the way.

  2. Oops. No-Nonsense. No final s, obviously.
    Another pretty good financial resource is How to Read the Financial Pages, by Michael Brett.
    A good introduction to American law and the US justice system can be found in Law 101, by Jay M. Feinman (Oxford University Press). It covers most everything, from the litigation process (some 45 pages) and criminal law to property law and constitutional rights.

    For British law, McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists can be a good starting point for translators without a law background; it also includes some sections on copyright, freedom of information, reporting elections, and official secrets. Chapters 1-10 provide a thorough grounding in court proceedings and the UK court system. The remaining 27 chapters deal with specific offences//law suits (divorce, bankruptcy, libel, slander, defamation, etc).

    English Legal System, by C. Elliott and F. Quinn, is a must-have for anyone working in the area of English law. It has an excellent section on sources of the law (both English and non-English law [EU law and treaties]), over 100 pages of detailed description and analysis of the legal professions, and a rather unusual final section on “concepts of law”.


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