Legal English in the US and UK: Translating escrito

The term escrito is widely used in Spain to refer to pleadings and other documents that lawyers file in court, and the term “brief” is often used to translate escrito in this context: escrito de demanda (“brief of complaint”), escrito de apelación (“appellate brief”). This translation may actually be appropriate for American audiences since in US usage a brief is simply “a written statement setting out the legal contention of a party in litigation.”* However, it should be noted that “brief” has a very specific meaning in English law that would preclude its being used in this context for UK readers. In effect, in England and Wales “brief” refers specifically to a solicitor’s instructions to a barrister, defined as “a document or bundle of documents by which a solicitor instructs a barrister to appear in court,”** and it can only be appropriately used in that context.

*Black’s Law Dictionary, 8th ed., 2004.

**Oxford Dictionary of Law, 6th ed., 2006.

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