The power of attorney. A creatively conventional genre in legal discourse?


The power of attorney is one of the most frequently used instruments in international legal practice, both in Common Law and Civil Law contexts. Internationally known as a legal-lay contractual agreement, it is locally adapted and drafted to suit specific, local realities. Generally, contracts lie within those genres which combine ‘highly formal traits with features typical of the written mode’ (Gotti 2005, p. 21). Additionally, as contracts, powers of attorney can be considered as highly codified and standardised, with easily predictable sentences and constructions, rich in formulaic expressions (Gotti 2005, p. 21), thus showing a crystallized and conventional use of certain routines. Starting from the assumption that legal language is inherently complex, obscure and over sophisticated (Di Renzo Villata 2007, p. 4), the present study investigates the power of attorney as a legal genre, identifying its particular move structure (Bhatia 2003). The qualitative and quantitative analysis of a corpus of different typologies of powers of attorney, drafted ad hoc for specific actions, endeavours to ascertain whether and to what extent specific generic features, macrostructures, moves, along with lexical expressions, archaic formulas and clichés can be placed on a creativity-conventionality cline. The investigation aims to determine whether powers of attorney can be representative of the dynamic interaction between conservatism and lexical productivity.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v33p125

Keywords: power of attorney; legal English; creativity; conventionality.


Alcaraz E., Hughes B. 2002, Legal Translation Explained, St. Jerome Publishing, Manchester.

Bhatia V.K. 1993, Analysing Genre. Language Use in Professional Settings, Longman, London and New York.

Bhatia V.K., Engberg J., Gotti M., and Heller D. (eds.) 2005, Vagueness in Normative Texts, Peter Lang, Bern.

Bhatia V.K., Gotti M. (eds.) 2006, Explorations in Specialized Genres, Peter Lang, Bern.

Bhatia V.K. 1987, Textual Mapping in British Legislative Writing, “World Englishes” 6 [1], pp. 1-10.

Di Renzo Villata M.G. 2007, Legal English, CEDAM, Padova.

Frade C. 2005, Legal Multinomials: Recovering Possible Meanings from Vague Tags, in Bhatia V.K., Engberg J., Gotti M., Heller D. (eds), Vagueness in Normative Texts, Peter Lang, Bern, pp. 133-155.

Garzone G. 2001, Deontic Modality and Performativity in English Legal Texts, in Gotti M., Dossena M. (eds.), Modality in Specialized Texts, Peter Lang, Bern, pp. 153-173.

Garzone G., Santulli F. (eds.) 2008, Il Linguaggio Giuridico. Prospettive Interdisciplinari, Associazione Italiana Giuristi D’Impresa, Giuffrè Editore, Milano.

Gotti M. 2005, Investigating Specialized Discourse, Peter Lang, Bern.

Gotti M., Dossena M. (eds.) 2001, Modality in Specialized Texts, Peter Lang, Bern.

Swales J.M 1990, Genre Analysis. English in academic and research settings, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Tiersma P.M. 2005, Categorical Lists in the Law, in Bhatia V.K., Engberg J., Gotti M., Heller D. (eds), Vagueness in Normative Texts, Peter Lang, Bern, pp. 109-129.

Trosborg A. 1997, Rhetorical Strategies in Legal Language. Discourse Analysis of Statutes and Contracts, Narr, Tübingen.

Williams C., 2005, Tradition and Change in Legal English. Verbal Constructions in Prescriptive Texts, Peter Lang, Bern.

Full Text: pdf


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.