I know hundreds of lawyers. And, to the best of my knowledge, none of them speak Latin.
Nevertheless, there seems to be a common misconception that a person needs some proficiency in Latin in order to understand the law.
In fact, I recently spoke to someone whose daughter was taking undergraduate courses in Latin to prepare herself for law school.
(I told him that her time would be better spent learning Spanish or Russian.)
It’s true that there are plenty of legal phrases that derive from Latin.
But using these phrases requires no in-depth knowledge of Latin’s baffling declensions, conjugations or syntax.
When a lawyer discusses an ex parte hearing or a ruling made nunc pro tunc, he’s exhibiting no more acumen for the language than a businessman who arranges a deal quid pro quo or who takes part in an ad hoc committee meeting.
To survive as a law student or practicing attorney you’ll need an understanding of, at most, 20 to 30 Latin words or phrases depending on the area of law you specialize in.
Here’s a list of the Latin terms I use most often in my ares of practice:
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