Collective nouns describe groups of people who act together (collectively) or as a single unit. Lawyers use collective nouns frequently:
When the people who make up the collective noun act collectively, the noun is singular and takes a singular verb:
-The Court rules …
-The majority holds …
-The jury finds …
-Congress votes …
-The legislature convenes …
-The committee calls …
-The corporation/business recalls …
This also means that collective nouns take a singular pronoun (i.e. it):
-The Court ruled in favor of the defendant. In doing so, it overturned nearly 200 years of prior precedent.
-The legislature voted to amend its ill-thought-out apportionment statute.
-The court held that while U.S. Airways was not precluded from delegating its duties to third-party independent contractors, it remained liable to plaintiffs injured by the negligence of those contractors.
The people in these groups can act individually as well, in which case the collective noun takes a plural verb:
-The team disagree on the proper course of action and have asked the managing partner for assistance.
-The class have begun working on their first legal writing assignment.
These sentences sound awkward, and the question of whether a group is acting collectively or individually can confuse both the writer and the reader. If the writer believes a collective group is acting individually, I think the better practice is to insert the word “members” (or a similar term) after the collective noun and use a plural verb:
-The team members disagree on the proper course of action and have asked the managing partner for assistance.
-The class members have begun working on their first legal writing assignment.
So, unless this exception applies, a collective noun is never a “they” (a very common error I see from both lawyers and law students).