ENGLISH FOR LAWYERS (EFL) 12th-13th September 2015
Once a rare skill to possess, profeciency in English is no longer a special trait for professionals to have. As an Indonesian professional, the increasingly open working field makes it more important to possess an excellent command of English.
“English for Lawyers” is one of the trainings conducted by BP Lawyers Foundation to support this endeavor. The latest training was held on September 12-13, 2015 in Sofyan Betawi Hotel, Central Jakarta. The workshop, joined by 16 (sixteen) participants from all ages, featured Legal Professionals who have extensive experiences in their legal careers to share their knowledge in using English language in their professional legal services.
The workshop, held in 2 (two) days, is divided into 4 (four) main sessions: (1) Contracts/Agreements Drafting; (2) Corporate Documents; (3) E-mail and Legal Advices; and (4) Legal Opinions. Each session featured different speakers who all shared extensively about their own experiences dealing with the use of English in their work.
The increasing of Foreign Investors in Indonesia forces Indonesian legal professionals to command excellent English, especially since foreign investors tend to request that their documents be made in two languages, Indonesian and English. Johannes C. Sahetapy-Engel from AKSET Law Firm has more than 30 years experience in Corporate Lawyering, and was eager to share his knowledge and tricks in Contract Drafting.
A written contract is one of the most important document when legal professionals deal with their clients. Not only that a legal professional must understand what is exactly their client’s interests, but they also have to figure out how to incorporate those interests in the Contract they are hired by their clients to draft.
Aside from the material substance of the contracts, in drafting a legal professional must also stay away from the usual pitfalls: inconsistency in terms, awkward numbering and formatting, and the use of archaic English words in contracts. Even the use of the word “shall”, oftentimes a fixed feature in various contracts, has the risk of making a contract sound ambiguous—it is highly reccommended to stop the habit and use mandatory words with clearer meaning such as “will” and “must”.
One of the most important aspects in corporate lawyering is dealing with corporate documents, both from the clients and also other parties involved in a certain matter. Richard Cornwallis from Makarim & Taira Law Firm was on hand to share his experiences in drafting and reviewing corporate documents as a Foreign Consultant with more than twenty years experience working in Indonesia.
Plenty of corporate documents have their own templates nowadays, and those templates can be easily found online. One tips that must be always noted by all legal professionals is that you must not follow those templates blindly—always make sure what the clients want and always adjust with those interests.
One of the other advices given in the workshop regarding corporate documents is always shorten the sentences to make it more efficient, yet never so that the sentences lost their meaning. A legal professional usually put in “pretty” words in order to make the contract sound more professional, adding self-explaining phrases that is repetitive.
EMAILS AND LEGAL ADVICES
With the surge of development in technology, emails are at most times, where legal professionals can make a first impression to their clients. Therefore, how you write an email to clients are important. Maria H. Sagrado from Makarim & Taira Law Firm emphasizes the importance of composing good and respectful emails to clients in her presentation, from the tone of email to choice of words.
A good first impression is not only created by composing a great email to clients with excellent technical terms. A simple research online of the addressee is the key to gain bonus points with your client, as it can help you avoid the misspelling of the client’s name, and allow you to directly address the client when you find out his/her gender.
Emails are also now widely used to send short legal advices to clients. It is advised to all legal professionals to make sure that the legal advices given via email has been treated with the same level of research with other more formal advices. Another tips is that to always make sure that the email is addressed to the correct parties, especially when replying or forwarding from a long email thread with a large amount of people.
Legal opinions are a legal professional’s bread and butter. It can make or break one’s career in the professional legal services field, and therefore it is the most important document for a legal professional to draft and issue. Marcia Wibisono from Yang&Co Law Offices does not only share her experiences in drafting legal opinions, but also the logistical issues that almost always follow the issuance of legal opinions.
Just like in drafting contracts and corporate documents, it is very easy nowadays to find an English template of Legal Opinions, usually provided in the legal offices a legal professional work in. But again, it is important to always comprehensively check the substance of the opinion and make sure it is drafted in accordance with the clients’ questions and interests.
Issuing a Legal Opinion is also not a small deal for legal professionals. Pressure from clients to complete and issue the opinion must not influence legal professionals to hasten their work. Legal Opinions must be drafted based on the found facts, and it is advised to all legal professionals to always communicate with their clients regarding issues related to the validity of the opinion.
All four speakers shared one similar thing in their sessions: always check and re-check the contents of the documents drafted and issued, especially as a legal professional. Ensure that documents has complied with the governing laws and regulations; ensure that there are no typos in documents; ensure that the clients and/or the addressees will understand the contents of the documents with minimum difficulty.
When push comes to shove, there is one final trick to employ: find a fresh pair of eyes to help you ensure those documents are sufficiently ready. Reading too long may cause you to read words you believe are right, instead of the actual words on the document. No matter how experienced you are, never be too proud to ask for support.
Support, donate, collaborate