Drafting Contracts in English

Pascale Chauvot

15 Jun 2010

In this post we are going to look at why English is the predominant language for the drafting of contracts, the implications this has for companies and their lawyers and the possible solution of finding a legal English course which specialises in drafting contacts.

English is the international language of business for a variety of reasons. The US is the dominant world economy and military power and two of the world’s main financial centres are also English-speaking (London and New York). As Dr Volker Triebel stated in his essay ‘Pitfalls of English as a Contract Language‘ nearly half of the companies listed in the Fortune Global 500 are headquartered in an English-speaking country (Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland or the USA).

Logically, negotiations between companies on the international stage predominantly take place in English and consequently the contracts that are drafted are also in this language. As Anglo-American firms merge with European companies, English is becoming increasingly important in Europe, even though the body of law is different on mainland Europe from that which exists in Britain, and the US, for example.

In Europe, civil law is used (based on written statutes) whereas in common-law jurisdictions, such as England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the US the laws primarily come from customs, usage and earlier court decisions. Bilingual contracts are now a thing of the past and so international company lawyers no longer have the option of not being skilled in the English language needed for drafting contracts.

The situation mentioned above means that company lawyers now have to draft contracts in English and interpret contacts in this language as well. They also have to know about the implications for drafting under Common versus Civil jurisdictions. Simply knowing the English language is not sufficient to have competence in such a complex and highly-skilled area.

The only credible solution is to send their lawyers on a Drafting contracts in English training course which caters for these special needs. Training centres do offer legal English courses, but Communicaid, the Culture and Communication Skills Consultancy, actually offers a ‘Drafting Contracts in English’ training course. It is now in its eighteenth year and the specialised trainers are themselves both qualified trainers and legal professionals. The main training centre for this skills consultancy is based in London, UK. This course is aimed at lawyers whose second language is English and ‘who need to draft, explain and interpret contract clauses written in English but under their domestic jurisdiction’.

 



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