Lawyers' Language: How and Why Legal Language Is Different

Lawyers' Language: How and Why Legal Language Is Different

Lawyers' Language: How and Why Legal Language Is Different

Lawyers' Language: How and Why Legal Language Is Different

Synopsis

An interesting examination of law as language use or discourse, this study looks at the transformation of ordinary language into a special discourse for the purposes of the legal system. It is widely accepted that legal discourse is obscure, and often the public resent the fact that access to the law of the land is obstructed by the opaqueness of legal language. This book argues that the development and maintenance of law's special language can be justified. The myth that law can be written in either plain' or ordinary' language is exploded, and the linguistic obscurity of law is traced to its necessary complexity. The notion of representation is applied to the relation that exists between legal language and ordinary language.

Excerpt

This book’s aim is to make a contribution to the alignment of law and democracy. Today, there is a need to study at all levels how the legal system fits into and works in a modern democratic society. A project to align law and democracy would not only explain how law adjusts to democratic change; it would also produce a critical background of theory against which the present-day anxieties about the location of power, as well as the programme of reforms now under way or discussion in Britain and in France, could be assessed. I mention some of these later in this Introduction. The book’s precise objective is to provide a buttress for the democratic credentials of the law. For, most obviously, the judges who apply and articulate the law can be attacked as being unelected and unaccountable. How can they be regarded as the people’s representatives? I aspire to dissolve the problem by a study of the nature of the language of the law against a linguistic background, showing in conclusion the link between legal language and ordinary language. In this, I lean heavily on the ideas of Habermas displayed in his masterly work Between Facts and Norms. While the argument is focused on British law (including particularities of Scots law), a great deal of comparative material is introduced from US law and some from France, taken as a representative Continental system.

The procedures of representative democracy, and a legal system which incarnates the rule of law and acts as a pillar of democracy, are both now taken for granted in the West. But, as regards the procedures of representative democracy, strains have progressively emerged. The crusading fervour which, in their time, powered the old Left and Thatcherism, has evaporated. The absence of any sharp ideological division between the mainstream parties, which makes

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