“Dono-who?” A question asked by no law student ever.
The salient features of this article include its ratio, which will ascertain the new lingua franca adopted by the Year 1s and its obiter, which shall largely comprise of hopefully humorous and wholly unrelated jokes.
Disclaimer: The writer will not be held liable for improper usage of legal terminology, as the column has been written in accordance with the humorous article precedents of Justified. (Or maybe because she is a nervous freshman trying to provide an excuse for all possible misstatements).
As a Higher Level International Baccalaureate English candidate, I got accustomed to communicating my thoughts and emotions in an expressly ambiguous (oxymoron, my personal favorite) and subtle yet stylistic technique employing excessive figures of speech and incomprehensible clauses resulting in verbose and obscure prose with the sole intention of confounding the examiner into grading my paper with that elusive 7.
Law school changed that in a week.
Confused and convoluted styles of writing are not appreciated, and sadly, nor are long and winding preambles.
In the first week itself we were told by our LAWR tutor to refrain from using ‘Yoda’ (apologies to the Star Wars loyalists out there) English and quite predictably, the next morning we found a long line of dutiful and eager Year 1s (including yours truly) outside the Co-op with a copy of ‘Plain English for Lawyers’ rested in their arms.
Quite ironic when one looks at the kind of old English grammar we encounter on a daily basis saturated with legal jargon, Latin phrases and long sentences whose latter halves end up, often, contradicting their former. Clearly punctuation wasn’t the “in thing” in those times and I’m guessing nor was succinctness. Our consolation lies in the fact that there must be a method to all this madness and out we pull our multi colored pens and highlighters with the purposeful intent to annotate and color code the given material into a language less abstruse. For the past five weeks we’ve been combating with the acrobatics of the legal language as well as the volume of assigned readings composed in that language replicating, somewhat, Tower of Babel on the Bukit Timah Campus – TB on BTC.
At the same time we want to be able to master this new lingua franca and successfully deliver dramatic dialogues with the suave of Specter (what’s the point of LAWR if one can’t communicate in a deliciously sexy and silkenly smooth manner, right?).
Law school has affected our colloquial speech pattern so that now the improvised version of ‘Like a Baus’ stands as Vicariously liable, like a boss (this is the but natural outcome of having read a gazillion cases on vicarious liability, we’re really not to blame here) and the team cheer during the Inter Faculty games was, quite predictably, Go Lord Denning! (more like Lord Dissenting, but that’s a discussion better left for another occasion). My friend, the other day, was naturally puzzled when I repeated her order for a Ginger Beer (wink wink) with great eagerness. Also I’ve noted how it’s not uncommon for us to break into legal terminology at random instances whilst talking to our family and friends and use words like ‘prima facie’ and ‘reasonably foreseeable’ totally out of context. We’ve also been quick to realize that when confronted with tricky situations in LAWR or Tort tutorials the most appropriate phrases to use are ‘according to the reasonable man…’ (whoever this elusive reasonable man may be) and ‘due to the perils of indeterminate liability’. I’m pretty confident in the wide applicability of these two statements.
Now, onto statements one seldom gets to hear during study sessions or in tutorials…“His judgment was so clear and unequivocal” – you’re just never going to hear that, are you? Or ‘Thank God he threw in a couple of Latin phrases, I was really starting to get lost in this sea of English words’. I guess students’ comments on Wikipedia will elicit a typical- “Wikipedia? Never used it for summaries, I rely solely on the readings’-response and when it comes to the more controversial topic of Muggers there exists a tacit understanding amongst law students (we’re quite cooperative in that sense).
So, in essence if I was to summarize the contents of this article in a few words (reading too many cases has turned me into becoming tautological) I’d say we’ve chosen to read law.. and therefore we must read, and read, and read some more.