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European Journal of Law Reform

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Issue 3, 2014 Expand all abstracts
Editorial

Plain Language: Improving Legal Communication

Authors Giulia Adriana Pennisi
Author's information

Giulia Adriana Pennisi
Giulia Adriana Pennisi is a Tenured Researcher in English Language and Translation at the University of Palermo (Italy), where she teaches English linguistic courses at graduate and undergraduate level. She is an Associate Research Fellow in the Sir William Dale Centre for Legislative Studies, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London.
Article

Living in the Past

The Critics of Plain Language

Keywords plain language, legal drafting, legislation, professional responsibility, legalese
Authors Derwent Coshott
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article addresses three core complaints that are frequently levelled by critics of plain legal language: (1) It will reduce reliance on lawyers; (2) It is uncertain and will lead to greater litigation; and (3) Legal writing is, and should only be, for a legally trained audience. The article develops a definition of plain language that reflects a more contemporary understanding. It demonstrates that the three core criticisms misrepresent this understanding and are unsustainable with regard to lawyers’ duty to clients, the role of legislation as public documents, and modern commercial realities.


Derwent Coshott
BA (Dist) (UNSW) JD (Syd) GradDipLegalPrac (ColLaw) LLM (Syd). PhD Candidate and Casual Lecturer at the University of Sydney.
Article

Shifting from Financial Jargon to Plain Language

Advantages and Problems in the European Retail Financial Market

Keywords financial markets, financial information, PRIPs/KIIDs, financial jargon, plain language
Authors Francesco De Pascalis
AbstractAuthor's information

    The purpose of this paper is to discuss the European regulatory efforts to guarantee investors a proper understanding of the characteristics of the products being offered in the retail financial market. In particular, the analysis emphasises the proposal to introduce plain language as a mandatory requirement for drafting pre-contractual documents relating to retail financial products.
    The 2007-2009 financial crisis brought to attention the importance of providing investors with more information on financial products to help them make informed investment decisions. However, more disclosure alone is not enough. The quantity and quality of information to be disclosed must go hand in hand with the way the information is communicated.
    Plain language is seen as an adequate tool to make information more transparent and understandable to the average investor. However, to make plain language a valuable instrument, it is necessary to enhance the ability of those who have the responsibility to apply it, that is, the financial products’ issuers and distributors.
    This aspect deserves proper consideration; otherwise, the benefit of plain language will remain on paper.


Francesco De Pascalis
The author obtained an LLM degree in Banking and Finance Law at Queen Mary University of London in October 2010 and is admitted as a barrister to the Verona Bar Society. Currently, he is doctoral candidate at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London.
Article

“What Does He Think This Is? The Court of Human Rights or the United Nations?”

(Plain) Language in the Written Memories of Arbitral Proceedings: A Cross-Cultural Case Study

Keywords arbitration, legal language, plain language, specialised discourse, corpus linguistics
Authors Stefania Maria Maci
AbstractAuthor's information

    Arbitration as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is an extra-judicial process resolved privately outside an ordinary court of justice. As such, the award has the same legal effects as a judgment pronounced by a court judge. Arbitration can be preceded by a pre-trial process in which arbitrators try to reach a conciliation agreement between the parties. If an agreement is not reached, the arbitration process begins with the gathering of the parties’ memories. In both oral and written evidence, language is used argumentatively, and above all persuasively, by all sides or parties involved.
    Extensive studies in arbitration have been carried out from the viewpoint of law. From an applied linguistics angle, the study of interaction in legal contexts has recently been carried out with particular regard to witness testimony and cross-examination in international commercial arbitration within the processes of arbitral hearings and the writing of minutes.
    To the best of my knowledge, to date there has never been an investigation on plain language in arbitral memories across national and professional cultures. Therefore, by carrying out a comparative analysis of the written evidence presented in two arbitral processes, this paper tries to evaluate the degree of influence that different legal cultures may exert on the type of language used in written arbitration evidence. The main objective is to offer insights into some instances of arbitration proceedings and their development within their British and Italian contexts.


Stefania Maria Maci
Stefania M. Maci is Aggregate Professor of English Language and Translation at the University of Bergamo, where she teaches English linguistic courses at graduate and undergraduate level. She is member of CERLIS (Research Centre on Specialized Languages), CLAVIER (The Corpus and Language Variation in English Research Group), BAAL (British Association of Applied Linguistics), and AIA (Associazione Italiana di Anglistica).
Article

Legislative Drafting in Plain Urdu Language for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

A Question of Complex Intricacies

Keywords Urdu, Pakistan, multilingual jurisdictions, legislative drafting, plain language movement
Authors Mazhar Ilahi
AbstractAuthor's information

    The plain language movement (PLM) for the writing of laws calls for improving legislative clarity by drafting the laws in a clear, simple, and precise manner. However, the main purpose of this aspiration is to facilitate the ordinary legislative audience to understand the laws with the least effort. In this respect, turning the pages of recent history reveals that this movement for plain language statutes has mostly been debated and analysed in the context of English as a language of the legislative text. However, in some parts of the multilingual world like India and Pakistan, English is not understood by the ordinary population at a very large scale but is still used as a language of the legislative text. This disparity owes its genesis to different country-specific ethnolingual and political issues. In this context but without going into the details of these ethnolingual and political elements, this article aims to analyse the prospects of plain Urdu legislative language in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan by by analyzing (1) the possibility of producing a plain language version of the legislative text in Urdu and (2) the potential benefit that the ordinary people of Pakistan can get from such plain statutes in terms of the themes of the PLM. In answering these questions, the author concludes that neither (at present) is it possible to produce plain Urdu versions of the statute book in Pakistan nor is the population of Pakistan likely to avail any current advantage from the plain Urdu statutes and further that, for now, it is more appropriate to continue with the colonial heritage of English as the language of the legislative text.


Mazhar Ilahi
The author is Solicitor in England and Wales and currently an Associate Research Fellow as well as Director of the Legislative Drafting Clinic at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Previously, he has worked as a Civil Judge/Judicial Magistrate and practised as Advocate of High Courts in Pakistan. He is also a country (Pakistan) representative of ‘Clarity’, an international association promoting plain legal language.
Article

Making EU Legislation Clearer

Keywords European Union, transparency, openness, clarity of legislation
Authors William Robinson
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article looks at the clarity of the legislation of the European Union (EU), in particular the clarity of the language used. It sketches out the basic EU rules on transparency and openness, past expressions of concern for clearer EU legislation, and the response of the institutions. Finally, it considers briefly some ways to make EU legislation clearer.


William Robinson
Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London, formerly coordinator in the Quality of Legislation Team of the European Commission Legal Service.
Article

Plain, Clear, and Something More?

Criteria for Communication in Legal Language

Keywords plain language, legislative drafting, definition, mediation, ignorance of the law
Authors Derek Roebuck
AbstractAuthor's information

    Legislation may be presumed to be intended to transmit a message to those whose conduct it aims to affect. That message achieves its purpose only insofar as it is intelligible to its recipients. Drafters should make every effort to use plain language, but not all meaning can be transferred in plain language. The true criterion is clarity.
    ‘Mediation’ and ‘conciliation’ are examples of definitions created by legislators which do not correspond with categories in practice. Historical research illuminates cultural differences which affect transmission of meaning. Recent practice also illustrates the possibilities of creative methods for resolving disputes and the dangers of unnecessary prescription.
    Imprecise thinking of legislators precludes transmission of precise meaning, as does preference for word-for-word translation. ‘Highest Common Factor’ language is no substitute for natural target language.
    No efforts of legislators or translators can prevail against political power. ‘Ignorance of the law is no excuse’ overrides the imperative to transfer meaning.
    If research is to be effective, it must be not only comparative but interdisciplinary.


Derek Roebuck
Professor Derek Roebuck, Senior Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London.
Article

Plain Language in Legal Studies

A Corpus-Based Study

Keywords legal discourse, metadiscourse, epistemic modality, personalization, code glosses
Authors Michele Sala
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article investigates the influence of Plain Language in legal academic research. The Plain Language Movement (PLM) in Anglophone cultures and Common Law systems considerably affected the way legal experts and practitioners use the language in professional contexts, both in writing and in oral situations. The assumption at the basis of this investigation is that the exposure to and experience with this way of using the language in professional settings is likely to have influenced the way experts write in research-related and pedagogical contexts.
    Based on a comparison between a subcorpus of 40 research articles (RAs) written by English, American, and Australian authors and 40 RAs authored by experts working in Civil Law contexts – thus not affected (at least not so distinctively) by PLM ideology – this article seeks to establish the main differences in the two subcorpora especially at the interpersonal level of discourse and, more precisely, in the use of metadiscursive interactional strategies such as epistemic modality markers and personalization – both intended to facilitate interpretation by controlling assertiveness and lexicalizing the rhetorical figure of the author – and interactive metadiscourse markers like code glosses – which are meant to paraphrase or reformulate meaning to both simplify and bias the interpretive process.


Michele Sala
Michele Sala is a researcher in English Language and Translation at the University of Bergamo, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Communication Studies.