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Chapter one

Legal practice in common law countries[/vc_column_text][vc_accordion active_tab= »false » collapsible= »yes »][vc_accordion_tab title= »PART 1″][vc_column_text]

Part 1 – Text 1 – information

The organization of the common law law firm

Law firms in common law countries such as the United States and United Kingdom are frequently very large, with some of the bigger firms employing hundreds if not thousands of people. In reality such firms are legal factories, many being global in character and reach. These firms, described as full-service firms, offer legal advice above all in the area of commercial law. Alongside these firms are also found smaller stand-alone law firms or sole practitioners.

Legal structure of law firms

Law firms can be structured in a number of different ways.

  • Sole practitioner A sole practitioner is a single lawyer working alone and thus he/she is effectively the law firm.

  • General partnership This is the traditional legal structure for common law law firms. The firm is made up of partners that own the business collectively and each has joint and several liability toward the other/s. Each lawyer is taxed directly on any profits taken from the business. The popularity of the general partnership structure has been overtaken in recent years by new business forms that give the partners in a law firm limited liability.

  • Limited liability partnership/limited liability company Limited liability partnerships (LLPs) in the United Kingdom or limited liability companies (LLCs) in the United States are structured like a general partnership. However, unlike general partnerships, LLPs and LLCs are treated as separate corporate entities, granting the lawyers who work for them limited liability. However, unlike an ordinary company, no corporate tax is levied on the profits made by either LLPs or LLCs and thus, partners are only taxed once on the income or dividend that they receive from the business’s profits.

Management and employment structure of a law firm

A law firm is organized around its partners. However, there are many different types of people working in law firms.

  • Partners Law firms are run and managed by their partners. The partners can be compared to the directors of a company, with one partner elected as managing partner, the equivalent of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Many firms are organized pursuant to a tier system with very senior partners being classed in the first or second tiers and the more junior recently elected partners placed in lower tiers.

  • Special counsel/of counsel Just under partner level, some law firms have a position referred to as of counsel or special counsel. This position is sometimes offered to senior associates who, although valuable to a firm, are thought to be lacking some of the necessary attributes to allow them to be considered for election to partner. Alternatively, of counsel positions are sometimes offered to well-known academics whose reputation in a particular field of law is sufficiently valuable that the firm benefits from having the person’s name on its notepaper or stationery.

  • Associates Associates are the rank and file members of a law firm. They can be broken up into two categories: junior and senior associates. Normally, after working in a firm as a lawyer for a period of two to three years, a successful junior associate will be promoted to senior associate. Thereafter, senior associates are expected to put in long hours of billable work, in the hope of being considered for a position as junior partner.

  • Support staff Law firms, especially large full-service firms, tend to employ many people under the heading of support staff. For example, there are paralegals, whose role is to carry out work of a semi-legal nature, such as research work and filing of documents. Personal assistants (PAs) and general secretarial staff carry out the secretarial duties in an office. Personal assistants of senior partners organize their partner’s appointment diary, book their tickets when they need to travel abroad, etc. The work they do is considered important and they are often quite well paid. Lower down on the secretarial scale are typists, especially night-time typists who often work on a short-term contract basis. Finally, there are the day and night receptionists, office administrative staff, human resources and IT personnel, all managed by the office manager. The office manager is only an administrative manager and a lawyer does not normally hold the position.

Vocabulary

Law firm – cabinet d’avocats

Firm – entreprise/firme

Frequently – fréquemment, souvent

Factory – usine

Reach (to)atteindre

Reach – portée

Full-service firm – cabinet offrant une expertise juridique multidisciplinaire

Advice – conseil

Alongside – à côté de

Stand alone firms cabinets indépendants (non affiliés à un réseau)

Sole-practitioner –avocat travaillant seul et pour son propre compte

General partnership – société en nom collectif

Sole proprietorship – entreprise individuelle dans laquelle un avocat (= sole practitioner) travaille seul pour son propre compte

Partner – associé

Partnership (to go into) – s’associer

Joint and several liability – être responsable conjointement et solidairement

Limited liability company – société à responsabilité limitée (liabilities – passif; limited liability – responsabilité limitée)

Levy (to) – taxer

Dividend – dividende

Limited liability partnership – société à responsabilité limitée

Manage (to) – gérer, diriger

Directors – administrateurs

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – Président-Directeur Général (PDG)

Tier system – hiérarchie composée d’échelons (niveaux/grades) au sein des associés

Tier – échelon

Special counsel/of counsel – conseiller expert auprès des associés, parfois un universitaire de renom

Attributes – qualités

Notepaper/stationery – papier à en-tête

Associates – collabarateurs

Rank and file – subordonnés

Category – catégorie

Promote (to) – promouvoir

Billable – facturable

Support staff – personnel administratif

Paralegals – assistants juridiques

File (to) a document – 1. déposer un document auprès d’une autorité administrative 2. classer un document dans un dossier

Personal assistant (PA) – assistant personnel

Diary – emploi du temps, agenda

Book (to) – réserver

Abroad – à l’étranger

IT Personnel – personnel responsable des technologies de l’information

Part 1 – TEXT 1 – EXERCISES

1. Vocabulary test

Fill in the missing words using the technical vocabulary in Text 1

  1. A law firm that offers its clients a complete service covering many different areas of law is called a ______ law firm.

  2. A lawyer can practice by himself as a ______ or work in ______ with other lawyers.

  3. Partners in a general partnership have ______ liability toward each other; however, if they form a company they will then benefit from ______ liability.

  4. The most important people in a law firm are the ______ in the firm, who are led by the ______ partner.

  5. In order to improve its reputation, a law firm can decide to appoint a leading academic as ______.

  6. Paralegals and secretaries are referred to as the ______ staff in a law firm and are managed by the office ______.

  7. I have just got a job as a paralegal with a large US law firm and I will be responsible for ______ documents and doing ______.

  8. Associates can be divided into ______ associates and ______; the former hope to be appointed partner and work very hard.

  9. The personal assistant of the managing partner is very important and organises the managing partner’s appointments ______ as well as ______ his/her airplane tickets.

  10. The senior partner in a law firm can be compared to the ______ of a company and his partners carry out a role similar to the ______ of a company.

2. Vocabulary test

Write sentences with the following pairs of words. Your sentence should demonstrate your knowledge of the relationship between the words

  1. Notepaper/of counsel

  2. Senior associate/junior partner

  3. CEO/partner

  4. Support staff/office manager

  5. Paralegal/research

  6. Joint and severable liability/partner

3. Knowledge test

Each of the following statements is false; do you know why? Write a sentence stating why it is false

  1. Partners in a law firm always have unlimited liability.

  2. Sole-proprietorship law firms are also called full-service law firms.

  3. The associates in a law firm are like the directors of a company.

  4. Paralegals are also called junior associates.

  5. Partners make up the rank and file members of a law firm.

Answers Chapter 1 – Part I – Text 1 – Exercise 1

a) Full-service. b) Sole practitioner, partnership. c) Joint and several, limited. d) Partners, managing. e) Special counsel/of-counsel. f) Support, manager. g) Filing, research. h) Senior, junior. i) Diary; booking. j) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), directors.

Answers Chapter 1 – Part I – Text 1 – Exercise 2

Normally in a general partnership the partners have unlimited joint and severable liability; however, if they have formed a limited liability partnership or a limited liability company, they will enjoy limited liability. b) No, sole-proprietor law firms are made up of only one lawyer and consequently cannot supply the full range of legal services provided by a full-service law firm. c) No, it is the partners who resemble the directors of a company and not the associates. d) No, paralegals make up part of the support staff of a law firm and are not lawyers. e) It is associates and not the partners who are said to make up the rank and file lawyers in a law firm.

Part 1 – Text 2 – More information

The organization of the common law law firm

In the common law world, a law firm is primarily considered to be a business, the function of which is to offer its clients legal advice. A law firm is made up of one or more lawyers and in common law countries a lawyer is considered as much a businessman as someone exercising a profession. Consequently, they are simply viewed as service providers and are not given any official title1. As they are profit orientated businesses, law firms seek economies of scale and this explains why Anglo-Saxon law firms are amongst the largest in the world, with some of the larger firms employing thousands of lawyers. In reality such firms are legal factories, many being global in character and reach. Indeed, Anglo-Saxon firms were among the first to realize that, with the development of global businesses, globalized law firms were necessary to offer complementary global advice.

However, this is not to say that smaller firms do not also exist in the Anglo-Saxon world. Some lawyers work alone and are referred to as sole practitioners. There are also stand-alone firms, which are not integrated into any national or international group or network of firms. There are also smaller firms specializing in one specific field and they are referred to as boutique law firms. These firms focus on particular areas of law, for example intellectual property law, labour law, tax law or mergers and acquisitions. Larger firms, sometimes referred to as full-service firms, offer legal advice in many areas, but generally concentrate on the area of commercial law. Criminal law, given the importance of the outcome of any eventual trial, is normally practiced by firms specializing only in this area. Large firms do, however, work in the area of corporate criminal law, dealing with what is known as white-collar crime.

Legal structure of law firms

Law firms can be structured in a number of different ways. For example a firm, depending on its size and area of activity, can take many different forms.

  • Sole practitioner A sole practitioner is a single lawyer working alone and thus he/she is effectively the law firm. In such firms, the lawyer has unlimited liability towards his clients for any losses that occur as a result of an error on his part. Sole practitioners can either specialize in one specific area or be a jack-of-all-trades, dealing with whatever legal problem a client may have. Attempting to practice in a wide variety of areas can be stressful and such practitioners are often found in rural areas. Sole practitioners are taxed directly on their income and thus are only taxed once on the money they make.

  • General partnership A general partnership is the traditional legal structure for common law firms made up of a number of different lawyers. Under this legal form, all the partners in the firm own the business equally and each has joint and several liability toward the other partners. As in the case of a sole practitioner, the firm’s partners are taxed directly on the profits they take from the partnership.

  • Limited liability partnership/limited liability company A limited liability partnership (UK) or a limited liability company (US) operates as a type of separate entity formed by the lawyers making-up the firm. An LLP/LLC grants lawyers limited liability in the normal way of a limited liability company. Thus, a partner is not considered to be jointly and severally liable as regards the acts of other partners, as is the case in a traditional general partnership. However, unlike a company, partners are not subject to double taxation on the firm’s earnings, as the partnership is not treated as a separate legal entity for tax purposes. Consequently, partners are only required to pay income tax on the profits or dividends they receive from the business, i.e. on their share of the company’s profits.

Management and employment structure of a law firm

Law firms are traditionally organized around a partnership structure. However, there are many different types of people working in a law firm, each having their own important contribution to make. It is proposed to consider each of these groups in order of importance.

  • Partners Law firms are run and managed by their partners. The partners in a firm can be divided into those who find the work, sometimes referred to as rainmakers and those who then actually perform the work; these two types of partners are sometimes referred to as finders (rainmakers, i.e. those who find clients) and grinders (service partners and associates who do the work). However, many partners fall somewhere in between these two groups. Partners are responsible for everything that occurs in the firm and can be likened or compared to the directors of a company, with one partner elected as managing partner, the equivalent of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In order to be elected partner in a law firm, it is normally necessary to have worked in the firm as an associate for a minimum of five years. However, sometimes lawyers are headhunted from other law firms and are offered a partnership as part of their recruitment deal; such partners are sometimes referred to as lateral partners or lateral hires. If the firm takes the form of a general partnership, the partners are considered joint-owners of the firm and, as we have already seen, have joint and several liability toward each other. It is for this reason that partnerships can be dangerous from a financial point of view and one is advised to consider carefully the financial position of a firm before agreeing to become a partner. At partner level, many law firms operate on the principle of you eat what you kill, i.e. you are paid directly on the basis of the money that you bring into the firm. As a result there can be great disparity between partner incomes, which can in turn create ill-feeling. For this reason, some firms put in place a system allowing for a more even or balanced division of profits. Partnership structures are normally organized around a tier system and senior partners are also referred to as top tier partners, while more junior partners will be placed in a lower tier, i.e. lower tier partners. The higher the tier, the greater the share in the profits of the firm enjoyed by the partner in question. Partners can also be divided into equity partners/full partners and non-equity partners. An equity partner is part-owner in the firm, i.e., he has equity in the firm and thus shares directly in its profits and its losses. Non-equity partners, also called paid partners, have no actual ownership in the firm. Obviously, it is much easier to remove a non-equity partner than an equity partner and thus one has security of tenure as an equity partner. However, a non-equity partner has less exposure to any debts attaching to the firm, which can be important in times of economic downturn.

  • Special counsel/of counsel Just under partner level, some law firms have a position referred to as of counsel. Lawyers who work as of counsel can have different profiles. The position is sometimes offered to senior associates who, although valuable to a firm, are considered as lacking the necessary attributes to allow them to become a partner in the firm. The advantage of being appointed of counsel is that a lawyer remains an employee of the firm and consequently is not expected to put in the long hours required from junior partners. Alternatively, of counsel positions are offered to well-known academics whose reputation in a particular field of law is considered so valuable that the firm benefits from having that person’s name on its notepaper or stationery. Academic of counsel are not normally expected to do much work for the firm and are relied on primarily as a marketing tool. However, they will be expected to advise lawyers of the firm on particularly complicated files and attend beauty parades. Finally, retired partners can ask to be made of counsel, so that they can continue to work for the firm at a reduced rhythm.

  • Associates Associates are the rank and file members of a law firm. They can be divided into junior and senior associates. Normally after working in a firm as a lawyer for a period of two to three years, a successful junior associate will be promoted to senior associate. Such a promotion is considered a clear sign that the person is potentially partner material. If they are not promoted to senior associate, junior associates are normally encouraged to leave the firm and find employment elsewhere. Thereafter, senior associates are expected to put in long hours in the hope of being considered for a position as junior partner. Assessment meetings, referred to as associate reviews, are held annually, advising associates as to how they are progressing, underlining their weaknesses and strengths. After a number of years, either a senior associate makes partner, is appointed of counsel or is encouraged to leave the firm. Most firms will not employ a senior associate on a long-term basis; either he/she2 is good enough to make partner or otherwise will have to leave the firm. US firms refer to this as an up or out policy.

  • Support staff Law firms, especially large full-service firms, tend to employ many people under the heading of support staff. There are paralegals that carry out work of a semi-legal nature, for example research work and filing documents, etc. There are also personal assistants (PAs) and general secretarial staff. Being the personal assistant of the managing partner of a large law firm is a relatively important position and some PAs will be paid as much as junior associates and will be considered as important, if not more important, to the firm. Lower down on the secretarial scale are typists, especially night-time typists who normally work on a short-term contract basis. There is also the office’s technical administrative staff, such as its human resources department, IT personnel and its bookkeepers. The office is managed administratively by an office manager, who normally is not a qualified lawyer.

Internal organization of large full-service international firms – the practice group

As we have seen, large multi-jurisdictional law firms, also referred to as full-service firms, have many different areas of specialization and each of these areas of expertise is often organized around the practice group specialized in this area. All the lawyers in a firm are expected to have an area of expertise and thus a lawyer specialized in the area of intellectual property will become a member of the intellectual property law practice group. The intellectual property practice group is thus made up of all of the firm’s intellectual property lawyers located in all of its offices throughout the world and so the practice group is a trans-national structure. Large international firms try to organize their business around these practice groups, rather than purely on national grounds. Thus, the London members of a firm’s competition law practice group may be in more regular business contact with their Japanese competition law colleagues than with London colleagues who are part of another practice group. This strategy allows such firms to provide their multinational business clients with an equivalent multinational global legal service. Great effort and expense is made to ensure these multi-jurisdictional practice groups function as a single unit. Thus, members of a particular practice group are encouraged to meet regularly and to develop pan-national strategies, in order to woo clients. Frequently, a business looking for a new law firm to represent them in a particular field will organize a series of beauty parades, where the members of the practice group(s) involved will make a multi-jurisdictional presentation to the client, hoping to demonstrate the extent of their legal know-how and the scope of their global reach.

These large law firms are often referred to as international law firms and young students wishing to work with these firms sometimes mistakenly say that they want to work in the area of international law. Mistakenly because, although these firms work in an international context, the law they practice is for the most part national domestic law. International law in reality plays only a limited role in the area of international business.

Large common law full-service law firms are big businesses, with some having an annual turnover equivalent to large multinational companies. Revenue driven, they seek ever increasing billable hours from their associates and partners. In boom times these firms hire aggressively and frequently offer attractive pay packets. However, in times of economic downturn they do not hesitate to cut back on staff. It is a competitive environment and can offer a rewarding career to those attracted to the world of international commerce.

Vocabulary

Law firm – cabinet d’avocats

Firm – entreprise, firme, cabinet

Primarily – principalement

Advice – conseil

Profession – métier, profession libérale

(In English the word profession is used to describe certain occupations such as lawyer, doctor, engineer etc. for which a university degree and professional qualification is required)

Service provider – prestataire de service

Seek (to) – chercher, rechercher

Economies of scale – economies d’échelle

Factory – usine

Reach (to) – atteindre, parvenir à (to reach a verdict), contacter, joindre (quelqu’un)

Reach influence, portée

Sole-practitioner – avocat travaillant seul et pour son propre compte

Stand alone firms – cabinets indépendants non affiliés à un réseau national ou international

Boutique firm – cabinet d’avocats spécialisé dans un domaine spécifique du droit

Full-service firm – cabinet offrant une pleine expertise juridique multidisciplinaire

Outcome – issue, résultat

Trial – procès

White collar crime – délits (crimes) de cols blancs, criminalité des entreprises

Sole proprietorship – entreprise individuelle dans laquelle un avocat travaille seul pour son propre compte

Unlimited liability – reponsabilité illimitée

Losses – pertes

Occur (to) – survenir, se produire

Jack-of-all-trades – un homme à-tout-faire, touche à tout (ici, généraliste)

Wide-variety – grande varieté

Areas – domaines

Stressful –stressant, dur nerveusement

Rural – rural

General partnership – société en nom collectif

Partner – associé

Partnership (to go into) – s’associer

Joint and several liability – être responsable solidairement et conjointement

Limited liability company – societé à responsabilité limitée

Limited liability – responsabilité limitée

Dividend – dividende

Limited liability partnerships – « partnership » à responsabilité limitée

Acts – actes

Earnings – revenus, gains, bénéfices

Manage (to) – gérer, diriger

Rainmakers – les avocats qui génèrent et attirent une grande partie de l’activité d’un cabinet

Grinders – (mot-à-mot) les « broyeurs » ; des professionnels qui, au sein d’un cabinet, fournissent un travail substantiel et souvent fastidieux –ceux qui abbattent le travail

Directors – administrateurs

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – Président-Directeur Général (PDG)

Head-hunted – recruté (the person who organizes the recruitment is called a head hunter – « chasseur de têtes »)

Deal – affaire, transaction

You eat what you kill – vous mangez ce que vous tuez (littéralement) être rémunéré en fonction de ses performances

Put (to) in place – mettre en place

Even division of profits – égale répartition des bénéfices

Tier system – hiérarchie composée de trois échelons (niveaux/grades) au sein des associés

Top tier – échelon supérieur

Lower tier – échelon inférieur

Equity/full partners –associés détenteurs d’une participation financière dans le capital de l’entreprise

Non-equity partners – associé salarié sans participation financière

To have equity – détenir une participation financière propre dans le capital de l’entreprise (être actionnaire)

Special counsel/of counsel – conseiller expert auprès des associés, parfois un universitaire de renom

Attributes – qualités

Notepaper/stationery – papier à en-tête

Beauty parade – (mot à mot = concours de beauté) réunion de promotion destinée à s’attirer des clients

Associate – collabarateur

Rank and file – subordonnés

Promote (to) – promouvoir

Associate reviews – évaluation du travail du collaborateur

Up or out policy – politique d’entreprise qui consiste à ne conserver et ne promouvoir que les collaborateurs dont le rendement est satisfaisant

Support staff – personnel administratif

Paralegals – assistants juridiques

File (to) a document – 1) déposer un document/dossier auprès d’une autorité administrative ; 2) classer un document dans un dossier

Personal assistant (PA) – assistant personnel

IT personnel – personnel compétent en matière de technologies de l’information

Practice group – unité (département) transnationale spécialisée dans un domaine juridique particulier

Competition law – droit de la concurrence

Grounds – fondements, bases

Strategies – stratégies

Woo (to)clients – attirer, séduire les clients

Field – domaine, secteur

Jurisdiction – juridiction

Jurisdiction of the court – compétence

International context – cadre, contexte international

Annual turnover – chiffre d’affaires annuel

Revenue driven – motivé par les profits, gains

Billable hours – heures facturables

Boom – essor, expansion

Pay packet – montant de la rémunération (à l’origine : enveloppe contenant la paie)

Downturn – ralentissement (de l’économie)

Cut (to) back on staff – diminuer, réduire les effectif

Part 1 – TEXT 2 – EXERCISES

1. Definitions

Write a sentence defining each of the following terms – one sentence per term

  1. Profession

  2. Sole practitioner

  3. Rainmaker

  4. Non-equity partner

  5. Support staff

  6. Full-service firm

  7. Head hunter

  8. Partnership

2. Sentences

Write sentences with the following pairs of words. Your sentence should if possible demonstrate your knowledge of the relationship between the words

  1. Promote/senior associate

  2. Partner/joint and several liability

  3. Managing partner/law firm

  4. Equity partner/non-equity partner

  5. Beauty parade/client

  6. Full-service law firm/boutique firm

  7. Of-counsel/partner

  8. Billable hours/revenue

  9. Support staff/office manager

  10. Paralegal/junior associate

3. Fill in the missing words

Fill in the missing words using the vocabulary in Text 2

  1. In a general partnership, each partner is ______ liable for his own acts and the acts of other ______.

  2. The managing partner of a law firm can be compared to the ______ of a company, whilst the partners are like a company’s ______.

  3. A ______ offers clients a wide variety of legal services, while ______firms tend to specialize in one specific area of law.

  4. Many large international full-service law firms are organized around ______ groups made up of lawyers working in different ______, thereby offering clients a truly global service.

  5. Law firms sometimes ______ well-respected academics as ______ in order to promote the firm’s image.

4. Knowledge test

The following questions may be answered in writing or by way of class discussion

  1. Compare the organization and structure of French law firms with Anglo-Saxon law firms.

  2. Would you prefer to work in a large full-service law firm or in a smaller firm? Why?

  3. Do you feel that the profession of lawyer in Anglo-Saxon countries is too orientated toward profit instead of the quality of the legal service?

  4. Do you consider that French law firms are going to start increasing in size to compete with their Anglo-Saxon counterparts?

  5. What is the future of the legal profession? Do you think that firms are going to continue to increase in size?

Answers Chapter 1 – Part I – Text 2 – Exercise 3

a) Jointly and severally, partners. b) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), directors. c) Full-service law firm, boutique firm. d) Practice groups, jurisdictions e) Appoint/hire, of counsel/special counsel.

1 For example, a lawyer in France is referred to by the term maître.

2 Instead of writing he/she, it is possible to write (s)he or sometimes “they”. Alternatively, just “he” or “she” can be used although this is disapproved of in the sometimes politically correct (PC) Anglo-Saxon world.

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Part 2 – Quick look grammar revision – tips and hints

Capitalization / Usage des majuscules

It is very important in English to know when you should use a capital letter and when you should not.

When should words be capitalized?

As a general rule, the following words should be capitalized.

  1. The first word of a sentence.

Example: Every day John is working harder and harder. He was very cross because he wanted to see the managing partner and he was not allowed to.

  1. The names of people.

Example: I met Frank Abrams, the new client I was talking to you about.

  1. Titles with the names of people.

Example: I saw Dr. Smith yesterday. Is he a doctor of medicine or a doctor of law?

NB, doctor is not capitalized in the second sentence, as it not used with the name of someone.

  1. Months, days of the week and holidays.

Example: I met the client during November, on a Tuesday I think. It was Christmas Day.

Note: Seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter) are not capitalized.

  1. The names of places, streets, cities, states, countries, oceans, rivers, lakes, deserts, mountains.

Example: I live in 68 Griffin Crescent, Chicago, Illinois, in the United States of America. I have sailed on the Pacific Ocean, the Danube River and Lake Erie. I have visited the Sahara Desert and climbed Mount Everest and then went to the Far East.

Note:

I crossed the desert/ I crossed the Sahara Desert. I live in a city/ I live in New York City. I climbed the mountain/I climbed Mont Blanc.

Note:

I travelled east and then travelled west/ I travelled to the Far East and then to Western Europe

.

 

  1. The names of schools/universities, businesses, parks, buildings.

Example: I went to Harvard University and later got a job with the law firm of Hammond and Hammond, the offices of which were located in Trump Tower, opposite Central Park.

Note:

I went to university/ I went to Yale University. I got a job with a law firm the offices of which are in a skyscraper opposite the park/ the offices of which are in a skyscraper opposite St. James’s Park.

 

  1. The names of courses, for example at university.

Example: I am studying Company Law.

Note:

I like the area of company law and so decided to take a course entitled Company Law for Lawyers.

 

  1. The names of languages and nationalities.

Example: He speaks perfect English even though he is American!

  1. The names of religions.

Example: He is a Buddhist monk now, but he was born a Catholic.

Part 2 – Grammar Exercises

1. Capitalization test

Add capital letters where necessary

  1. the law firm where i work is very relaxed; every friday there is a dress down1 day.

  2. do you know frank smith? He is a partner in strawberry & fields, the well-known law firm.

  3. professor smith was appointed of counsel in fake & blake solicitors. he is from boston.

  4. the danube river flows into the atlantic ocean or is it the black sea, or maybe it is some other ocean?

  5. alaska is just north of canada, and sao paulo is in south america, not far from antarctica.

  6. dr smith was called to help a passenger on the plane to new york city but he could not do anything because he is a doctor of law.

  7. canada is an english speaking country but many people there speak french.

  8. frank had a business meeting in the plaza building in chicago; it is located in the south of the city.

  9. james had a meeting in bermuda. it was the wettest july in history and he had a cold when he returned to london city airport.

Answers Chapter 1 – Part 2 – Exercise 1

a) The, I, Friday. b) Do, Frank Smith, Strawberry Fields. c) Professor Smith, Fake & Blake Solicitors, He, Boston. d) The, Danube, Atlantic Ocean, Black Sea. e) Alaska, Canada, Sao Paulo, South America, Antarctica. f) Dr. Smith, New York City. g) Canada, English, French. h) Frank, Plaza Building, Chicago. i) James, Bermuda, It, July, London City Airport.

1 Some firms have dress-down days during which it is not necessary to wear a suit and tie at work.

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Part 3 – audio and Oral – LISTENING and speaking

Comprehension

Listen to the following conversation and make notes of all the relevant facts and then answer the questions below. If you have trouble understanding, follow the conversation while also reading the text.

Interview between Miguel and Charlene (a lawyer)

Miguel is waiting to meet with Charlene and his personal assistant comes to see him …

Charlene’s PA: “Hello Miguel, Charles will see you now. His office is just down the hall, the last door on the left.”

Miguel: “Thank you very much.”

Miguel knocks on the door of Charlene’s office

Charles: “Yes, come in please.”

Miguel: “Hello, my name is Miguel.”

Charles: “Ah yes Miguel, please take a seat. I know I have your CV and application letter somewhere here on my desk. Ah yes here it is under my coffee! So let’s see; it says here that you are looking for a training period with our Firm.”

Miguel: “Yes, last year I successfully sat the Bar examination and as part of the lawyer qualification process, I have to work with a law firm for a period of eighteen months.”

Charles: “OK, first I would like to quickly run through your CV. So you studied in Madrid?”

Miguel: “Yes, I did my first four years in Madrid, before coming to Paris to do a Masters in tax law.”

Charles: “Good. We are actually looking for people in the commercial area and in particular for someone to start in the area of tax or revenue law.”

Miguel: “Super, I did my Masters in that field, so it is obviously the area in which I actually want to work.”

Charles: “What area of tax law are you interested in particularly?”

Miguel: “Well, I am interested in tax law in general but I particularly like the area of taxation and international corporations and the whole question of double taxation. From my CV, you can see that I did a course in this area and got particularly high marks in the subsequent exam.”

Bob: “Yes, in general your marks are very good; it is one of the reasons for which we1 decided to invite you for an interview. How are your languages?”

Miguel: “My English is pretty good. I speak French, Italian and of course Spanish.”

Charles: “Would you be able to work in Italian?”

Miguel: “Well my written Italian is not too hot, but my spoken Italian is fine.”

Charles: “And how is your written English?”

Miguel: “I probably wouldn’t be able to write memos to clients, but I could probably handle e-mails and my spoken English is quite good. I spent a couple of summers in the United States and have managed to stay in contact with friends there. Indeed, I was hoping maybe to be able to spend part of my stage or internship in one of your English speaking offices.”

Charles: “We speak English in all of our offices Miguel but I understand what you wish to say and it is sometimes possible for interns to spend part of their training period abroad. However, it is something we tend to reserve for exceptional candidates and even if we were to offer you a position, we could not promise you anything like that.”

Miguel: “Of course I understand.”

Charles: “Perhaps the best thing is for you to meet with some of the other partners in our Firm. I will ring Frank Thompson now who heads up the Tax Law Practice Group here in Paris and see if he has a minute to see you. Do you have the time right now?”

Miguel: “Yes, of course.”

Part 3 – Audio Comprehension – Exercises

1. Comprehension

From the notes you have taken, answer the following questions

  1. Where is Charles Smith’s office located in the building?

  2. In which area of tax law is Miguel particularly interested?

  3. Would Miguel be able to work in Italian?

  4. Where has Miguel studied?

  5. For how long does Miguel have to work with a law firm in order to complete his training experience?

  6. Where was Miguel’s CV located on Charles Smith’s desk?

2. Speaking practice

In the following series of conversation couplets, develop suitable responses to the questions asked

a) Charles: “What area of law are you interested in?”

Miguel: “______.”

b) Charles: “I know I have your CV and application letter somewhere here on my desk. Ah yes here it is. So let’s see, it says here that you are looking for a stage or training period with our firm.”

Miguel: “______.”

c) Charles: “How are your languages?”

Miguel: “______”

d) Charles: “What type of salary would you expect to receive?”

Miguel: “______.”

e) Charles: “And how is your written English? Would you be able to talk and write to clients?”

Miguel: “______.”

f) Charles: “If we were not able to offer you a stage exclusively in the area of tax law, would you still be interested in working with us?”

Miguel: “______.”

g) Charles: “Do you speak any other languages?”

Miguel: “______.”

h) Charles: “In our Firm we pay rather well but expect our associates to work hard and be in the office a good deal of the time. Would this be a problem for you?”

Miguel: “______.”

i) Charles: “Would working exclusively in the area of tax law be a problem?”

Miguel: “______.”

j) Charles: “Have you applied to other law firms apart from our ourselves?”

Miguel: “______.”

3. Speaking practice continued ……

Create five other conversation couplets using in each couplet at least one word from the technical vocabulary found in Part 1, Text 1 or Text 2

4. Speaking practice continued ……

Listen to the suggested replies and repeat

a) Charles: “What area of law are you interested in?”

Miguel: “Generally I am interested in the area of commercial law, but I particularly like the area of tax law.”

b) Charles: “I know I have your CV and application letter somewhere here on my desk. Ah yes here it is. So let’s see. It says here that you are looking for a stage or training period with our firm.”

Miguel: “Yes, as part of the qualification process to become a lawyer, I have to complete a training period or an internship of 18 months.”

c) Charles: “How are your languages?”

Miguel: “My English is quite good and I also speak Spanish.”

d) Charles: “What type of salary would you like?”

Miguel: “Well, I would like to be paid a reasonable amount, certainly enough to allow me to pay my bills and have a social life. Perhaps we could use the pay scale established by the Paris Bar as a reference.”

e) Charles: “And how is your written English? Would you be able to talk and write to clients?”

Miguel: “Certainly, I think that I would be able to talk to clients in English and participate in meetings.”

f) Charles: “If we were not able to offer you a stage exclusively in the area of tax law, would you still be interested in working with us?”

Miguel: “Of course. As I mentioned, I am interested above all by the possibility of practicing in the area of commercial law.”

g) Charles: “Do you speak any other languages?”

Miguel: “I studied Spanish for a number of years in school. However, it is some years that I have not had an opportunity to speak in Spanish, so it is probably quite rusty.”

h) Charles: “In our Firm we pay rather well but expect our associates to work rather hard and to be in the office a good deal of the time. Would this be a problem for you?”

Miguel: “No at this stage of my career I want to work hard and above all learn.”

i) Charles: “Would working exclusively in the area of tax law be a problem?”

Miguel: “No not at all, as I said, I like the area of tax law.”

  1. Charles: “Have you applied to other law firms apart from our office?”

Miguel: “Yes, I applied to a good few firms and I am due to do interviews with some of them over the next few weeks.”

5. Class discussion

Discuss the following questions in class

  1. Do you think Miguel has done a good interview?

  2. What is the best approach when doing an interview? Should the candidate try to dominate the process or should he/she allow the interviewer to take the lead? Should a candidate say exactly what he/she believes or what he/she thinks the interviewer wants to hear?

  3. Try and improve on the answers that Miguel has given to the questions asked by Charles.

  4. Organize a series of interviews between class members and make a list of the type of questions and answers that you can expect in an interview.

1 Note the use of “we”. This is to indicate that a law firm is run on a collegiate basis and that partners ultimately take decisions acting together as one.

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Part 4 – Translation exercises

When carrying out the translations it is not necessary to translate directly word for word; rather the emphasis should be on translating the sense of the text. Language is not directly interchangeable and so direct translations do not always convey the meaning in the text.

Translate the following texts from English to French

A. Boutique law firms

A boutique law firm refers to a firm of lawyers that specializes in a niche area of law. Unlike a general practice or full-service firm that brings together a variety of unrelated practice areas within a single firm, a boutique firm normally only specializes in one specific practice area. Generally boutique firms are small but some can have up to two hundred lawyers, depending on how successful they are. The term boutique refers above all to their specialization rather than their size. Boutique firms tend to specialize in fields such as intellectual property law, competition law or labor law. Frequently these areas require industry-specific knowledge, which non-specialized lawyers might not have. For example, any competition law lawyer worth his salt also probably has a business degree, such as an MBA, as an understanding of economic theory is central to the practice of antitrust law.

A .Cabinets d’avocats spécialisés dans un domaine – Boutique law firms

Un cabinet d’avocats peut être qualifié de « boutique » afin de désigner sa spécialisation dans un domaine spécifique du droit. A la différence d’un cabinet généraliste, dit « full service » (multidisciplinaire) au sein duquel sont pratiquées des matières juridiques très diverses, la « boutique » se spécialise dans un domaine spécifique. Les cabinets « boutique » sont généralement de petites structures mais quelques-uns peuvent, en fonction de leur succès, compter jusqu’à deux cents avocats. Le terme « boutique » fait avant tout référence à la spécialisation plutôt qu’à la taille des cabinets. Ces derniers ont tendance à se spécialiser dans des domaines tels que le droit de la propriété intellectuelle, le droit de la concurrence ou encore le droit du travail, domaines qui requièrent des connaissances professionnelles précises que les non-spécialistes pourraient ne pas détenir. Par exemple, un excellent avocat spécialisé en droit de la concurrence détiendra probablement également un diplôme d’école de commerce, par exemple un MBA : une bonne perception des théories économiques est essentielle dans ce secteur du droit.

B. The story of John Sullivan, founder of the law firm Sullivan, Jenkins and Freehold

The history of Sullivan, Jenkins & Freehold is a story of imagination, determination and hard work. For more than one hundred years, the Firm has had only one ambition, to be the world’s largest law firm, to become a truly unique global organization. But before there was a law firm established, there was a man with a dream. John Sullivan was born in the harsh mining environment of Wales at the turn of the century. Winning a scholarship to Oxford University, he supplemented his meagre tuition grant by working in various student bars and even worked as a bouncer for a local dancehall. After qualification, he joined the City1 law firm of Shearer & Watson, before establishing the firm of Sullivan, Jenkins & Freehold. Initially a boutique firm specialized in banking law, the partnership grew into the world’s largest commercial law practice, with offices throughout the world’s five continents. On his deathbed, Sullivan was asked the secret to his success. “Hourly billing”,2 he replied sardonically.

B. L’histoire de J. Sullivan, fondateur de Sullivan, Jenkin & Freehold

L’histoire de Sullivan, Jenkins & Freehold est celle de l’imagination, de la volonté et d’un travail acharné. Durant plus de cent ans, le cabinet n’a eu qu’une seule ambition : être le plus grand et devenir une entreprise unique à l’échelle mondiale. Mais avant cela, il y eu un homme et un rêve. John Sullivan, né au milieu du 20ème siècle et issu du difficile milieu minier au Pays de Galles, fut lauréat d’une bourse pour Oxford. Il compléta sa maigre allocation d’études en travaillant dans différents bars étudiants, ainsi que comme videur dans une discothèque/bal locale. Une fois diplômé, il a rejoint un cabinet de la « City » (de Londres), Shearer & Watson, avant de créer Sullivan, Jenkin & Freehold. Cette entreprise, qui était à l’origine une « boutique » spécialisée dans le droit bancaire, est devenue le plus grand cabinet au monde de droit commercial, avec une implantation sur les cinq continents. On a demandé à Sullivan, sur son lit de mort, le secret de sa réussite : « le nombre d’heures facturées » a-t-il répondu sur un ton sardonique.

C. Business planning for law firms

Business planning for law firms is different from planning for an ordinary industrial or commercial enterprise. Primarily, this is a result of the nature of the services that law firms offer to their clients and the way these services can be marketed. Legal advice is not a homogenized product. Nonetheless there are some similarities. Perhaps the first questions any managing partner of a law firm should ask his partners are:

  • What kind of work do they want to do?

  • What kind of clients do they want to have?

  • How big do they want the firm to eventually be?

It is essential to establish clear answers to these three questions if the law firm is to put in place a coherent and achievable business plan. In this regard certain compromises will have to be made. A firm that wishes to work primarily in social areas such as refugee rights will have to accept that its earning capacity will never be that of a firm working in financial services.

C. L’organisation de la stratégie des cabinets d’avocats

Dans les cabinets juridiques, l’organisation des activités est différente de ce qu’elle est dans une entreprise industrielle ou commerciale ordinaire. En premier lieu, elle résulte de la nature des services offerts aux clients et de la façon dont ces services sont commercialisés. Le conseil juridique n’est pas un produit homogénéisé. Il existe néanmoins des ressemblances. Sans doute, les premières questions que tout avocat associé à la direction d’un cabinet poserait à ses associés sont:

  • Quel genre de travail veulent-ils faire ?

  • Quelle sorte de clients veulent-ils avoir ?

  • A quelle taille d’entreprise aspirent-ils ?

Afin de mettre en place une organisation du travail cohérente et réalisable au sein du cabinet, il est essentiel de formuler des réponses claires à ces trois questions. A cet égard, des compromis devront être faits. Un cabinet qui souhaite travailler en priorité dans des domaines sociaux tels que le droit des réfugiés devra se faire à l’idée que sa capacité bénéficiaire ne sera jamais aussi importante que celle d’un cabinet œuvrant dans les services financiers.

Translate the following texts from French to English

A. Les cabinets d’avocats d’affaires en France

La France compte près de 34 000 avocats ; parmi ceux-ci, 14000 exercent à Paris. De plus en plus d’avocats se spécialisent en droit des affaires. Cet essor est allé de pair avec l’émergence, pour ne pas dire l’invasion, de cabinets anglo-saxons sur le territoire français. C’est vraiment là un marché qui connait une mutation constante. Pour donner un exemple, on a pu constater, au cours des dernières années une augmentation des fusions, tendance génératrice d’une toujours plus forte concentration des cabinets. Des regroupements de taille se sont produits alors que les cabinets français tentent de faire face à la concurrence anglo-saxonne. En outre, la recherche de rentabilité et des économies d’échelle ont accéléré la cadence de tels regroupements.

A. Business law firms in France

France has close to 34,000 lawyers, 14,000 of whom are located in Paris. More and more are specializing in the area of business law. Linked to this growth is the emergence or even invasion of Anglo-Saxon firms operating on French territory. In reality it is a market in constant transformation. For example, for the last number of years there has been a growing tendency for firms to merge, leading to an increased concentration of law firms. Important mergers have occurred as French firms try to cope with their Anglo-Saxon competitors. Further, the pace of such concentration has been accelerated as attempts are made to increase profitability and economies of scale.

B. Le métier de juriste

Le juriste d’entreprise est quelqu’un qui a fait des études de droit, sans avoir pour autant nécessairement obtenu le diplôme d’avocat. Son rôle en tant que conseiller juridique est de s’assurer que l’entreprise pour laquelle il travaille est en conformité avec les lois qui régissent ses activités. Il est tenu de suivre avec minutie le déroulement des procédures juridiques engagées contre l’entreprise, de défendre et de protéger les intérêts de cette dernière. Parfois, surtout dans les pays anglophones, ce conseiller juridique est aussi un avocat habilité. Cependant, même si une telle référence est de plus en plus courante, elle n’est pas véritablement nécessaire. Dans le cadre de son travail, ce juriste est tenu d’étudier les textes de lois, ainsi que les textes réglementaires qui s’appliquent au secteur dans lequel son entreprise intervient. Pour bien réussir dans ce métier, il faut être persuasif, convaincant, avoir le sens du relationnel et, cela va de soi, savoir négocier. C’est un métier difficile mais très intéressant.

B. The profession of in-house lawyer/legal adviser

The in-house lawyer/legal adviser is somebody who has studied law but who has not necessarily qualified as a lawyer. His role is to give legal advice and to ensure that the undertaking/business for which he works is in conformity with the laws governing the exercise of its activities. He is required to scrupulously track any legal actions brought against the business, defending and protecting its interests. Sometimes the legal adviser is also a qualified lawyer, especially in English-speaking countries. However, even if such a qualification is more and more usual, it is not actually necessary. In carrying out his/her work, the in-house lawyer is required to study the laws and regulations concerning the area in which his/her business is active. To succeed in this profession, it is necessary to be persuasive and convincing, to have good inter-personal skills and, needless to say, to be a good negotiator. It is a difficult profession, but very interesting.

C. Nouvelles qualifications pour les assistants juridiques (parajuristes)

Le Barreau de Québec mettra bientôt au point un dispositif qui permettra de délivrer un brevet aux assistants juridiques qui dispensent des services au public. La loi qui doit être bientôt adoptée par le gouvernement rendra le Barreau responsable des critères de compétence et de déontologie des assistants juridiques. Le Barreau aura aussi la responsabilité de la mise sur pied du mécanisme relatif à la délivrance de ces certificats et aux règles disciplinaires applicables aux assistants juridiques. En outre, les candidats devront suivre un enseignement universitaire reconnu, réussir un examen d’admission et avoir les « qualités morales » requises pour avoir l’autorisation de pratiquer. Des dispositions extraordinaires seront conçues pour les candidats disposant de « droits acquis », c’est-à-dire plus de trois ans d’expérience à temps plein dans les secteurs homologués au cours des cinq dernières années. Les assistants juridiques expérimentés ou titulaires d’un diplôme universitaire de base attestant d’une formation d’assistance juridique pourront bientôt demander de passer l’examen d’admission d’assistants juridiques au Québec.

C. New qualification for paralegals

Soon the Quebec Bar will put in place a program whereby a license will be granted to those paralegals supplying services to the public. The law, which is soon to be adopted by the government, will make the Quebec Bar responsible for the standards and professional ethics of paralegals. The Quebec Bar will also be responsible for establishing a system governing the granting of licenses and the application of disciplinary measures as regards paralegals3. Moreover, paralegals will be required to follow an approved/recognized college course, pass an admission exam and have sufficient “moral fortitude” to be eligible to receive a license to practice. Special provision will be made for applicants with acquired rights, i.e. having more than three years full-time experience in authorized practice areas during the last five years. Experienced paralegals and those who hold paralegal training diplomas from third level establishments will soon be able to apply to sit an examination for admission as paralegals in Quebec.

Footnotes

1 The “City” is the name given the business and banking district located in the heart of London.

2 Law firms can either charge by the hour or alternatively agree a price in advance for any work that is to be done.

3 Note that in English it is not desirable to have overly long sentences. The general rule normally is: one idea per sentence.

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Part 5 – Advanced reading

Management of law firms – the partner/associate and client/law firm relationship

Central to the success of every law firm is the nature of the relationship it has established between:

  • its partners and associates; and more generally

  • the firm and its clients.

These two relationships are fundamental to the successful functioning of any firm. Times of economic hardship and recession can put both these relationships under pressure. In such periods, the reaction of many firms is to lay off lawyers and support staff. As we have seen, a typical law firm is structured around its partners, supported by the work of their associates. The ratio of associates to partners in a law firm is referred to as leverage. The more associates per partner, the more leveraged is a firm’s business model. Highly leveraged1 firms take exaggerated profits when there is a lot of work available; however, in an economic downturn they are economically vulnerable as they have more overheads, i.e. the cost of paying high numbers of associates and support staff. Thus, when an economic downturn is significant, many law firms immediately modify their business model, as they are no longer able to rely on associate multiplication as a means of profit maximization. In other words they lay off or fire some of their associates.

Another area of legal practice that comes under pressure in an economic downturn is the law firm’s relationship with its clients, especially as regards the firm’s billing practice. Lawyers can bill for the work they do in a number of ways.

  • Hourly billing, recognized as the most profitable billing method.

  • Flat rates, whereby a fee is negotiated in advance for the work that is to be done. Flat fees are probably the most popular with clients as they allow the client some control at the time of hiring over the amount of fees that will be payable.

  • Retainer fees, whereby a lawyer is paid a fixed amount to represent a client over a fixed period. The retainer fee is payable whether the lawyer has any actual work to do or not.

  • Contingency fees, whereby a lawyer is paid a percentage of the money he helps to generate, as a result of his involvement.

Many in the business community consider that lawyers’ fees have become excessive, with legal bills sometimes threatening to cost more than the problem the lawyer has been hired to solve. However, lawyers would argue, and with some reason, that higher bills are a natural result of the costs of doing business in a society that increasingly seeks refuge in regulation. More regulation naturally results in higher regulatory compliance costs. To comply with the law one first has to know what the law is and so one has to hire a lawyer. After all it is not fair to blame the lawyer for the law!

Footnotes

1 Leverage can also be used to refer to a business’s debt levels: a heavily leveraged or highly geared business is one that has borrowed a lot of money.

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