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International Legal English: A course for classroom or self-study use

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 30 No. 1 Winter 2012

Amy Krois-Lindner and TransLegal

Cambridge University Press (2011)

ISBN 978-0-521-27945-1

344 pages, Student’s Book with Audio CDs (3) [Paperback]

The first edition of CUP’s International Legal English coursebook was published in 2006. A groundbreaking publication designed for use in the classroom as well as for self-study, it was well received across the board by teachers and students alike. Five years on, a revised and updated second edition has appeared.

To be fair, I must first declare my own interest as I was invited to comment on the first edition during the development of the second. Eagerly awaited, this second edition does not disappoint.

For those as yet unfamiliar with this particular publication, International Legal English prepares law students and practicing lawyers for the International Legal English Certificate (ILEC), successful candidates being awarded a B2 or C1 pass depending on their performance. As with other Cambridge exams, the ILEC tests all four skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The ILE coursebook is equally valuable for those who do not intend to take the final exam, instructive as it is in law-related writing skills, grammar issues, and speaking, not to mention the intrinsically interesting legal content from texts on company formation in Russia to EU insolvency laws, and much in-between.

Each of the 16 units starts with a reading text which gives an overview of the topic and introduces the key vocabulary in context. Thereafter appear authentic texts on the topic, ranging from statutory provisions through to extracts from contracts, law journals, case notes, and legal blogs, accompanied by a wide variety of tasks to give learners practice in all the four core skills. At the end of every unit there is a link to an online task to help students improve their web-based research skills in Legal English. Finally, each unit closes with exercises consolidating and revising the language work covered in the unit.

Interspersed throughout the coursebook are case studies which give students the opportunity to work with relevant legal documents, practice their negotiation and advocacy skills, and draft authentic letters or memorandums to clients or legal colleagues.

The mock exam papers at the back of the book come with tips for each test providing learners with more all-important practice. Complete audio transcripts accompanying the Audio CDs, a glossary of terms used in the book, and the answer key round off the syllabus.

The second edition follows closely the winning formula of the first, but includes a number of new features, namely:

  • a new unit on transnational commercial law to complement the existing emphasis on commercial law
  • new case studies on environmental law, transnational commercial law, and intellectual property
  • new texts reflecting the coursebook’s diverse international clientele
  • closer attention to lexical and grammar issues of particular relevance to the legal profession from the use of ‘shall’ to participle clauses with ‘-ing’
  • a pull-out glossary for easy access to specialist vocabulary, and
  • a new sample ILEC test paper for intensive exam preparation.

In addition, the somewhat dull grey and green pages have been replaced with a fresher, more reader-friendly dark red, and, perhaps the most ambitious makeover, all of the listening material has been re-recorded to ensure that students become fully conversant with a wider range of international English accents.

Perhaps my only gripe with the new edition is that the CD track numbers are still missing in the coursebook, which makes it hard to match the listening exercises with the relevant recording, particularly once the CDs have been uploaded onto iPods or smartphones. The transcript page numbers are also still missing in the operative part of the book.

Such quibbles aside, the authors and publisher are to be congratulated on a task exceptionally well executed.

Alison Wiebalck