Hello readers! With the start of the new year, you might be feeling a little festive, reflective, nostalgic or… looking for different ways to improve your legal English! In case you’re looking for a little inspiration, I’d like to share with you a few things I learned while observing a seminar at the Law Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno, the Czech Republic.
Overview of the Legal English course
The seminar is part of a course which runs over six sessions prepared and run by Dr Hana Kallus of the University’s Law Faculty Language Centre, alongside her colleagues Drs Jarmila Pokorná, Eva Večerková, and Eva Tomášková. The course is called ‘Developing English Language Communication Through Case Studies’. Recent graduates of the university discovered that soft skills in English are a key aspect of working life in the legal field, and in response to this, Dr Kallus and her colleagues designed this course for their third-year undergraduates. The aim of the course is to better prepare the students for their future careers, and the sessions cover case studies and examples from competition law, corporate law, and marketing, among others. Dr Kallus kindly invited me to observe her session after we met at the EULETA workshop in Krakow this year. I highly recommend checking out the organisation if you’re in legal English teaching and would like to connect with other like-minded individuals in the field!
So let’s dive into this morning’s seminar and tasks:
Task 1: key issues in invitations to a general meeting of a limited liability company
The students are put into groups and given short examples of invitations to a general meeting. The examples contain some form of error, and in their assigned groups, they must brainstorm to identify these errors and other issues with the invitations. The students correct the writing, revise corporate terms like ‘registrar’, ‘company secretary’, and ‘company health’ along the way, and clarify legal expressions in Czech and English at the same time. The key (and most practical) takeaway here when writing an invitation is that you must consider the suitability of the meeting date (avoid dates close to public holidays!), as well as ensure that all the paperwork is ready and prepared before the meeting. Make sure to include a clause for those unable to attend the meeting, and use an appropriate level of formality in the writing.
Task 2: Differences between a general meeting of a limited liability company and a joint-stock company
After some feedback, we follow-up the task by comparing the differences between general meeting invitations of a limited liability company and a joint-stock company under Czech law. For example, both have different deadline requirements (15 days for a limited liability company, and 30 days for a joint-stock company), and that the contents of the invitation can be freely drafted for a limited liability company, whereas a joint-stock company has a prescribed form under the Business Corporations Act. As a class, we discuss further differences including the requirements of the members and the consequences of a wrongly-summoned general meeting.
Task 3: negotiating skills
In the next part, we follow up on a case study involving a breakdown of a marriage. Before the session, the students were tasked with watching a video of four lawyers negotiating the terms of access to the children on behalf of their clients. This time, the students roleplay a negotiation from start to finish and find a way for both parties to be satisfied with an out-of-court settlement. The students are split into two groups, each representing either party, and are asked to prepare their BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) before presenting their arguments. The negotiations kick off after the students are given some time to prepare, and a settlement was agreed upon in a speedy 12 minutes!
Here are some of the negotiation tips I learned from this task:
💡 Never underestimate the importance of small talk and introductions before beginning negotiations. This helps both parties relax and avoid either side antagonizing each other.
💡 Preparing a summary of the situation before beginning negotiations helps ensure that everyone starts off on the same page. It’s easy to assume that everybody understands the situation the same way you do, but this is not necessarily the case.
💡 Structuring the arguments on a list helps keep discussions on track – it’s easy to lose focus and backtrack on previously agreed terms, which wastes precious time.
And those are just some of the tips I learned during the session at the faculty! It was such a fun and engaging experience, and it was a pleasure to watch Drs Kallus and Pokorná working so closely with the students to help them achieve the best they can over the sessions. I hope you found them useful for your own legal English learning (or teaching) experience!