Grammar for legal writing

Grammar for legal writing

The aim of this chapter is not to provide comprehensive coverage of all aspects of grammar, but merely to provide guidance on various issues that may cause difficulty.


Articles in English include the, a and an.

A few simple rules clarify the way in which these articles should be used.

A and an are indefinite articles. A is used when mentioning something for the first time (‘a client walked into the office’). An is used in the same circumstances but only where the following word begins with a vowel (‘an attorney walked into the office’).

The is the definite article. It is used when referring to something already mentioned before (‘the client then sat down’), or when referring to something that is the only one of its kind (‘the sun’) or when referring to something in a general rather than specific way (‘the Internet has changed our way of life’).

In some circumstances, articles should be omitted. For example, when a sentence links two parallel adjectival phrases, the article should be omitted from the second phrase. Here is an example:

The judge ruled that Cloakus Ltd was a validly registered and an existing company.

In addition, when using certain abstract nouns in a general, conceptual sense, it is not necessary to use an article to precede the noun. For example:

In the event of conflict between the definitions given in appendix 1 and the definitions given in the contract, the contract shall prevail.

There is no need here to precede conflict with a, since conflict is used in a general conceptual sense. However, when referring to a specific conflict, articles should be used. For example:

The efforts of negotiators to end the conflict between the two warring nations have so far been unsuccessful.


2.2.1 Overview

Prepositions are words used with a noun or pronoun which show place, position, time or method.

Prepositions such as to, in, from, between, after, before, etc. normally come before a noun or pronoun and give information about how, when or where something has happened (‘she arrived before lunch’, ‘I travelled to London’).

The preposition between should be followed by an object pronoun like me, him or us instead of a subject pronoun such I, she and we. It is therefore correct to say ‘this matter is between you and me’ and wrong to say ‘this matter is between you and I’.

Prepositions are a difficult area of English usage for non-native speakers, because while they sometimes appear to be used logically (e.g. the pen is on the table, the pen is underthe table; I am going toLondon, I am coming fromLondon) this is not always the case.

The reason for this is that prepositions often form part of phrasal verbs found in idiomatic expressions whose real meaning differs from their apparent meaning. Examples include I cannot put up withthis, you deal withthat client, I’ll just skim throughthe report. Therefore, it may be helpful to use this section in conjunction with the glossary of phrasal verbs at the back of the book.

2.2.2 List of prepositions with examples of usage

Here is a non-exhaustive list of prepositions in common usage in legal English, together with examples of usage. Note that prepositions are sometimes used in twos (pursuant to, owing to, due to, etc.) and even threes (as far as, by means of, in accordance with, etc.), and examples of prepositions strung together in this way are also included below. One word

about – The lawyer was about to go into court when the telephone rang.

above – Please refer to the paragraph  above which deals with the insurance arrangements.

across – She went across to the court to issue the proceedings.

after – The contract was signed after the parties had agreed the prices to be paid for the goods.

against – The company began trademark infringement proceedings against one of its competitors.

along – The client did not go along with the advice given by the lawyer.

among (or amongst) – A copy of the plan of the property was found among the papers in the file.

around – We expect the purchase price to be around €500,000.

at – The contract stipulates that the goods must arrive at the depot at 10.00 on 13 July.

before – The lawyer appeared before the judge in court and argued her client’s case.

behind – It seemed likely that a criminal gang was behind the thefts from the local garage.

below – The company was not prepared to consider offers below a threshold of $3 million.

beneath – The Emperor of Ruritania considered it beneath his dignity to open a supermarket in Inverness.

between – An agreement was reached between Haxter Ltd and Tollby Ltd on 14 September 2011.

beyond – It is important not to go beyond what was agreed without discussing the matter with the client first.

by – The invoice must be paid by the client by 3 May.

concerning – We have received further information concerning the warranties to be included in the share purchase agreement.

despite – We have instructions to proceed with the case despite the points raised in the defence.

down – ‘The court is located down there,’ he told us. ‘Near the end of the high street.’

during – A great deal of new evidence emerged during the course of the testimony given by the witness.

except – This restriction applies to all applications except those already received by the company.

excluding – The contract contains a provision excluding liability in certain cases of default.

followingFollowing the court hearing, the lawyer returned to her office.

for – Payment for the goods shall be made on delivery.

from – We have now received the necessary undertakings from the defendant’s lawyer.

in – The price list is set out in schedule 1.

including – We seek delivery of all the missing parts, including those currently stored in the defendant’s warehouse.

into – The clerk asked the parties to go back into court following the adjournment.

near – The court is near the cathedral.

of – The attorney was a member of various professional organisations.

off – Certain discussions took place between the lawyers off the record.

on – The new law on employment contracts comes into force tomorrow.

opposite – The court is located opposite the cathedral in the central square.

over – A dispute arose between the landowners over the positioning of the boundary.

per – A travel allowance of €40 per day was paid to the employee.

plus – The invoice came to €400 plus VAT.

regarding – Negotiations took place regarding usage of the storage facilities owned by the company.

since – There have been a number of signifi cant developments in the case since the previous court hearing.

than – The amount of damages awarded by the court was more than the lawyer had anticipated.

through – The lawyer read through the papers in the file.

to – Delivery shall be made to an address notifi ed by the purchaser to the vendor.

towards – A great deal of progress has been made towards settlement of the case, but a little more time is required in order to reach final agreement between the parties.

under – The witness gave evidence under oath.

until – It is unlikely that the case will be settled until the morning of the hearing.

up – He brought up the question of our fees again.

upon – The proceedings were served upon the defendant yesterday.

via – All contact with the claimant was conducted via her lawyer.

with – He was charged with murder.

within – The goods must be delivered within 14 days of signature of the contract.

without – The total amount of the invoice is €30,450 without VAT. Two words

according toAccording to the contract, rent must be paid on the third day of each month.

ahead of – We should schedule a further meeting ahead of the next court hearing.

apart from – There are no further matters to be resolved apart from the copyright issue.

as of – The new law on employment comes into force as of midnight tonight.

as regardsAs regards payment of our fee, we can offer an instalment option.

aside from – There are one or two issues we need to address aside from the question of trademarks.

because of – This litigation arose because of the unreasonable position taken by the defendant.

close to – The case is now close to settlement, but there are several issues still to be resolved.

due to – The offi ce is closed tomorrow due to a public holiday.

far from – The contract is far from ready to be signed, since a number of amendments need to be made to it.

instead of – Overtime worked by the employee shall be compensated by extra holiday instead of payment.

next to – The client had paid next to nothing for the goods, which turned out to be defective.

out of – Payment was made out of the company’s account.

owing to – The advice given to the client was amended owing to a recent decision of the Court of Appeal.

prior to – The consent of the bank must be obtained prior to the share transfer being made.

pursuant to – The company changed its name pursuant to the new legislation on company names.

regardless of – Our client wishes to seek an injunction against his neighbour regardless of whether the building work is suspended or not.

subsequent to – The court’s decision was handed down subsequent to the new law coming into force.

thanks to – A satisfactory outcome was achieved in the case, thanks to the meticulous work undertaken by the claimant’s lawyers.

that of – One issue still remains to be resolved – that of the payment method to be used. Three words

as far as – The summons has not yet been served as far as I know.

as well as – The vendor must deliver the software as well as the hardware no later than 10 December.

by means of – Payment shall be made by means of direct bank transfer.

in accordance with – The sum of $45,000 must be paid on 5 October in accordance with the court order.

in addition to – Certain legal documents require the signature of witnesses in addition to the parties in order to be valid.

in case ofIn case of fire the lifts should not be used.

in lieu of – The employee shall receive time off in lieu of payment.

in spite of – The assignment was completed by the agreed deadline in spite of several unforeseen difficulties that arose along the way.

on account of – We have had to terminate Mr Taylor’s employment contract account of his unsatisfactory performance at work.

on behalf of – The lawyer appeared on on behalf of her client at the pre-trial review.

on top of – The employee received a bonus of €10,000 on top of his regular salary at the end of the year.

with regard to / with respect toWith regard to/with respect to the question of costs, we consider that the sum of €35,000 should be adequate.

2.2.3 Choice of preposition

It is important to note that in certain circumstances it may be possible to use more than one preposition, and that there may be small but crucial differences in meaning between them. For example, the sentence:

The goods must be delivered within 7 days

is subtly different from:

The goods must be delivered in 7 days.

The use of the word within makes it clear that the goods may be delivered at any time up to the seventh day, while the word in