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ENGLISH CONTRACTS: LANGUAGE AND LAW - PART 1

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Many international, or ‘cross-border’, commercial contracts are drafted in English. This is just one reason why having a high level of spoken and written English is important if you work in a commercial law firm, or you want to. Of course, English contract language can be very different to the English we use in general, non-professional situations.


In addition, the parties to international commercial contracts often choose English law (more accurately, the law of England and Wales) to govern their agreement. There are many reasons for this, which perhaps are not important to deal with right now. The main point here is that if you are dealing with a commercial contract drafted in English and governed by English law, not only must your English be of high-quality, but you will have a significant advantage if you know something about the principles of English contract law.


If your native language is not English, you probably come from a civil law jurisdiction, rather than one based on common law. Your legal system probably relies on written statutes or codes, rather than on judicial precedent (which is the basis of a common law system). The difference between civil law and common law legal systems can be significant, particularly in relation to commercial contracts.


In some areas of contract law – for example, in relation to consumer contracts – there is a significant amount of relevant legislation. However, in relation to commercial contracts (business to business, sometimes referred to as B2B) there is very little relevant legislation to regulate the relationship between the parties.


In this series of posts, we will explore some of the language you will find, and legal principles which apply, in the field of commercial contracts. We will also be posting a series called ‘Commercial Vocabulary A-Z’, which will concentrate on some specific important vocabulary. The posts will also contain exercises which you can use to check your understanding, if you wish.


See you next time.

Exercise

Some of the words in the text, above, are in bold. Find a word, or phrase, in bold which means the following:

1. The general name for a collection of written laws, usually made by a parliament.

2. The people or legal bodies which form both sides of a contract.

3. The extent (here the geographical territory) to which a government (or a court) has legal power to make and enforce laws (or legal judgments).

4. The legal process in which judges of lower courts must follow the judgments and legal decisions made by higher courts.

5. To control or regulate.

ANSWER KEY

1. legislation

2. parties (to a contract)

3. jurisdiction

4. judicial precedent

5. govern

© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2020

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