Did you ever wonder why laws contain a definition of the terms used in that law?
Defining a word has the objective of identifying it as different from another. No two individuals are exactly alike. That is what we learned early on in high school biology. Identical twins are not the same. It is also true in words. No two words have exactly the same meaning. A definition can be a word of almost the same meanings, as right and privilege; a description of the word, as rain is water from the clouds; a delimitation of what the word encompasses, as a province is a political subdivision composed of several town and villages; or a word with a meaning opposite of the word defined, as legal is the antonym of illegal.
Why bother to define? The reason is simple. A single word can have different meanings to different people. This naturally results in misunderstandings. In fact, even with a definition of terms, misinterpretation still arises. But at least, not as much as when there is no set definition.
Given that lawyers deal with laws, aspiring lawyers are well advised to equip themselves with adequate words. As the hammer is the tool the carpenters use to drive nails in, so are words the essential tools that lawyers use to drive home a point. Of course, having the tools may not be enough. Knowing to use them to complement one another will be necessary. Master the art of grammar too.
Whether we like it or not, English is still the prevalent language we use in our laws and in the practice of the profession. So, I recommend that law students exert efforts to get a daily dose of words. They will come in handy in their lives in the future, either in the practice of law or in any other endeavor where communication skills matter. Those skills matter in all human endeavor that involves dealing with people. As lawyers or as one who simply loves the law, we all deal with people and communicate ideas.
Having discovered the counsel of Socrates to his students early in my college life, I have tried to heed his advice. Not always conscientiously. But I tried. And tried. It is still a continuing education. You know what his advice to his students? “If you want to speak with me, define your terms.”
I will still speak with you even if you do not define every term you use. However, we will be able to understand each other better and avoid misunderstanding if you are able to use the words according to the meaning you intend them to mean and which I understand them to mean. For whatever worth it may have to you, my advice is for you to continue to accumulate the words, the tools you will need in the practice of the illustrious profession you want to belong. You may pass the bar examinations with the tools you have now, but you will need more tools, thereafter. Remember, the more tools you have, the better your work will be.
New York, NY
See other works of Brod Manuel B. Quintal, Esq.
Inspirational Words to Live By
The Universality of Rizal’s Ideas and Its Relevance to Filipinos Today
Rizal: Filipino hero, Asian and a universal man
The Law and Politics in Impeachment
Constitution: To Amend or not to Amend?
About the Author
Brod Manuel B. Quintal, Esquire, is a former college professor of Political Science and Law, with graduate degrees in both disciplines. He practices law in the State of New York. His Law Offices of Manuel B. Quintal, P.C. is located at 291 Broadway, Suite 1501, New York, NY 10007, United
States of America. He is the president of the Tau Kappa Phi Law Fraternity Alumni Society – USA/Canada, for 2014-2016.