Demystifying Legal Jargon: A Beginner’s Guide to Common Legal Terms

It can be intimidating to navigate the legal landscape, particularly for people who are not familiar with the complex jargon used in the industry. We’ll clear up the confusion around popular legal phrases in this beginner’s guide, giving you the knowledge you need to comprehend courtroom conversations, paperwork, and procedures. Let’s enter the legal field with confidence and clarity.

  1. Jurisdiction:
    • Definition: The geographical area or legal boundaries within which a court or authority has the power to make legal decisions.
    • Example: “The court has jurisdiction over cases that occurred within the state.”
  2. Litigation:
    • Definition: The process of taking formal legal action; the act or process of carrying making or defending a claim – usually in a Court or Tribunal. .
    • Example: “The parties involved opted for litigation to resolve their dispute.”
  3. Claimant and Defendant/Respondent:
    • Definition: The Claimant is the party bringing a legal action, while the defendant/respondent is the party being accused or sued.
    • Example: “The Claimant  alleges breach of contract, and the defendant denies the claims.”
  4. Contract:
    • Definition: A legally binding agreement between two or more parties, outlining the terms and obligations.
    • Example: “They signed a contract specifying the terms of their partnership.”
  5. Tort:
    • Definition: A wrongful act or an infringement of a right that leads to civil legal liability.
    • Example: “Negligence resulting in personal injury can be a basis for a tort claim.”
  6. Criminal Law vs. Civil Law:
    • Definition: Criminal law relates to offenses which breach the rules, procedures or laws that the government imposes on all of its citizens, while civil law deals with disputes or matters between individuals or entities.
    • Example: “Stealing is a criminal offense, while a breach of contract is a civil matter.”
  7. Due Diligence:
    • Definition: Thorough research and investigation undertaken before entering into a legal agreement or transaction.
    • Example: “Before acquiring the business, they conducted due diligence to assess potential risks.”
  8. Probate:
    • Definition: The legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person.
    • Example: “The Will is currently in probate, and the assets are being distributed accordingly.”
  9. Arbitration and Mediation:
    • Definition: Methods of alternative dispute resolution where neutral third parties help parties reach a resolution outside of court.
    • Example: “They opted for arbitration to resolve their contractual dispute.”
  10. Solicitor/Barrister:
    • Solicitor: A qualified legal professional who provides advice and representation on various/all areas of law and acts directly for their client.
    • Barrister: usually instructed by a solicitor to advocate in a Court on behalf of their client.  Barristers have specialist knowledge of and experience of the courtroom and therefore cases and their advice and advocacy, whilst working with the instructing solicitor, can make all the difference to a case.

Gaining a better understanding of these frequently used legal terminologies is extremely helpful in navigating the intricate legal landscape.  This guide provides a foundation but your solicitor should always explain things clearly and in a manner you understand.  If they don’t, do not be afraid to ask them!

Here at Aston Bond, we pride ourselves on providing a stress-free and pragmatic approach when you do require legal advice.  No question is too big or too small, and we take the time to ensure our clients are comfortable and understand every step of their journey.

Barristers Cautioned Due To Risks of ChatGPT

The Bar Council has updated its guidelines for barristers on the use of ChatGPT and other AI technologies.

Although the guidelines confirm that utilising trustworthy AI tools to enhance legal services is not intrinsically wrong, they do highlight the need for barristers to proceed with caution and thoroughly check the work being produced by the AI. The most common risks include information disorder caused by systems unintentionally producing false information, violations of intellectual property rights, and breaches of confidentiality and sensitive information.

The Bar Council is especially concerned about the potential for “hallucinations,” bias, anthropomorphism, and “stereotype reinforcement” on some AI platforms. Indeed, it warned that there has already been at least one case in the UK where a litigant in person presented nine legal “authorities,” all of which turned out to be completely made up by an AI system like ChatGPT.

According to the guidelines, using AI in an irresponsible manner can result in severe and embarrassing outcomes for barristers, such as being sued for professional negligence, breach of contract, breach of confidence, defamation, data protection violations, infringement of intellectual property rights (including passing off claims), and reputational harm. It might also lead to violations of professional obligations and guidelines, which would call for disciplinary action and penalties being imposed.

According to research, new software “should not be a substitute for the exercise of professional judgement, quality legal analysis, and the expertise which clients, courts, and society expect from barristers,” even while technology can “complement and augment human processes to improve efficiency.”

The Bar Council’s chair, Sam Townend KC, stated:

“The growth of AI tools in the legal sector is inevitable and, as the guidance explains, the best-placed barristers will be those who make the effort to understand these systems so that they can be used with control and integrity. Any use of AI must be done carefully to safeguard client confidentiality and maintain trust and confidence, privacy, and compliance with applicable laws.”

He went on: “This Bar Council guidance will support barristers using LLMs to adhere to legal and ethical standards by outlining the key risks and considerations.” “It will be reviewed periodically, and practitioners must remain alert and adjust as the legal and regulatory environment shifts.”

Judges and solicitors were given advice on the use of AI at the end of last year, and this new guidance is the most recent in a series of documents that have been sent to them. The whole topic of AI is a controversial one, particularly within professional fields. One of the concerns is that  it strips away the natural or human aspect of the work, which in turn can potentially damage the reputation and validity of the work.  However, it is clear AI is here to stay and work must now be done on educating lawyers and how best to use AI – and when not too!

Fees for the Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal to be introduced

A public consultation on the introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunal (ET) and Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has been opened by the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice’s proposed introduction of a £55 fee in the ET and EAT is intended to accomplish the following, among other things:

  • To relieve some of the cost to the general taxpayer by requiring tribunal users to pay for the tribunal system, where they can afford to do so.
  • To incentivise parties to settle their disputes early through ACAS without the need for claims to be brought to an ET
  • To create better engagement by parties in ACAS early conciliation so as to add value for taxpayer money that is spent on providing this free service
  • To alleviate some of the pressures the ET are currently facing.

It has been proposed that the fee (which will be payable on issuing the claim) being set at £55 should be moderately affordable for most.

More details can be found here:

Employment Tribunal fees were abolished in 2017 following a case bought by Unison against the government.  The Supreme Court ruled in their favour and ruling that it was unlawful on the grounds of access to justice.  The case (and subsequent abolition of fees) saw a spike in case being presented at the Tribunals.  This has continued to rise steadily over the years with some arguing the lack of fees encourages speculative or weaker cases being presented.

Of course, with a potential change in government things may well change again.  In addition, there is nothing stopping a further challenge in the Courts if fees were re-introduced.   For now however, the more that have their say the better.

Do you agree with the re-introduction of fees?  Let us know your thoughts! The government are now consulting on whether to re-introduce the fees and inviting responses. 

Judges rule that Walkers’ small poppadoms are crisps in every way, besides the name

A very interesting case today. The world’s biggest crisps brand is now facing a deadline following a verdict  that they will now have to pay VAT on it’s mini poppadoms because they are more akin to crisps, rather than what they say they are. There is more specifics by law on products being sold  than it may seem! Walkers contended that the Sensations Poppadoms bags should be exempt from the sales tax since they are not crisps (which are included in a specific category of snack items that are liable to the tax, along with cereal bars, ice cream, and chocolate-covered biscuits).  The judge disagreed.

Foods on that list are subject to 20% VAT under the complicated tax regulations.  Because traditional poppadoms are considered restaurant cuisine or food that needs to be prepared further rather than a packaged snack, they receive a zero rating. Previous VAT debates have involved McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes, which tax authorities in the 1990s unsuccessfully argued were biscuits; Pringles, a win for HM Revenue and Customs when they were found to be a crisp; and flapjacks, which were found to be too chewy to be a cake and therefore subject to VAT.

Walkers said that their little poppadoms, which were meant to be eaten with curries or for dipping in sauces, shouldn’t be categorised as crisps because they weren’t made of potatoes and needed to be prepared beforehand. In spite of this, a tax tribunal determined that the “small, generally round, bite-sized objects” were in fact crisps because 40% of the ingredients, including potato starch and granules, were “potato-derived.” The objects were also described as “somewhat wavy, with small bubbles on the surface.”

“Nominative determinism is not a characteristic of snack foods: calling a snack food Hula Hoops does not mean that one could twirl that product around one’s midriff, nor is Monster Munch generally reserved as a food for monsters,” stated the tribunal judges, Anne Fairpo and Sonia Gable.

The idea that Sensations Poppadoms were employed similarly to their larger brethren did not convince them either. Given that we believe there is a practical limit to the amount of dip or chutney that most people are likely to want to combine with the crunch of the conveyor product, we did not believe in practice that they were significantly different from potato crisps in terms of their ability to convey dips, etc.

Walkers have not yet commented on the ruling but may, nevertheless, file an appeal.

The case covers complex tax rules and we always advise getting professional advice on such matters.  At Aston Bond we have worked alongside tax specialists and accountants in the past as needed. However, obtaining advice early on can avoid fines as well as hefty legal costs.

Abuse of Process

Is it improper for a claimant who used a COT3 agreement to settle a claim of whistleblowing to try to initiate new legal action utilising the same protected disclosures but different detriments?

A COT3 is much like a settlement agreement but settles claims being brought at the Employment Tribunal.  Most settlements agreed through ACAS are in the form of a COT3 (albeit solicitors will often – though not always – get involved in drafting the wording). 

In 2017, the claimant filed a claim at the Employment Tribunal, claiming that she had suffered consequences as a result of her protected disclosures. A COT3 agreement was used to resolve this 2017 dispute through ACAS, and it had a clause stating that the claimant would not “issue any further and/or new claim or claims of any nature against the Respondent… arising from or in relation to the issues/complaints in the Proceedings.”

The Claimant then filed a new tribunal claim in 2021, claiming that the same protected disclosures that had been asserted in the 2017 claim had caused her to suffer fresh harms that were not covered by the COT3. Even though the damages were new, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) determined that she was barred from bringing a new claim that relied  on the same protected disclosures due to the terms of the COT3. According to the EAT, it would be an abuse of process to accept the 2021 claim.

Not just the complaints, but also the “issues” in the procedures were resolved by the COT3. Whether the disclosures that were cited in the 2017 claim were protected disclosures was one of the questions raised. Even if a new claim claimed additional harms, it could not re-litigate that issue since it had already been resolved by the COT3.

It is always advisable to take legal advice on the terms of settling any claims, whether in the guise of settlement agreements or COT3.  

We are experienced in advising on drafting and negotiating claims, both prior to them reaching a Tribunal and afterwards.  If you would like assistance with such matters, our Employment Law team can help.

Contact our Head of employment, Ilinca Mardarescu on

British Judge used Chat GPT for case ruling

In a surprising revelation, Lord Justice Birss, a Court of Appeal judge in the United Kingdom, has openly admitted to using ChatGPT, an AI chatbot, to draft part of a case ruling.

The judge used the AI chatbot to summarise an area of law, and then copied and pasted the response.

Lord Justice Birss said: “I asked ChatGPT can you give me a summary of this area of law, and it gave me a paragraph.”

While Lord Justice Birss praised the tool’s efficiency, he also emphasised the importance of not relying on AI for unfamiliar subjects.  He was keen to point out that he already knew the answer and so was able to judge whether the response given by the AI was acceptable.  Essentially, it was used as a tool to speed up the drafting of the judgment.

AI-driven tools are increasingly used for legal research, contract analysis, and document review tasks. This incident highlights the evolving role of AI in the legal field and raises important questions about its limitations.

The judge also described the AI chatbot as “jolly useful” for providing a summary of the legal context he needed.

Legal professionals must exercise caution when employing AI tools, especially in critical decision-making processes. Relying on AI-generated content can lead to serious consequences and it is important to note that AI may not have the latest response or position in an ever-changing field.

Lord Justice Birss asserted that he still took full personal responsibility for the content of his judgment, stressing that he was not attempting to shift responsibility onto the AI tool.

The incident underscores the importance of responsible AI use and the need for legal professionals to maintain a keen sense of judgment in their work.

As AI continues to advance, the legal community must strike a balance between harnessing AI’s potential and upholding the principles of legal practice.

Meet our newly qualified solicitor – Lauren Johnson

Congratulations to Lauren Johnson who has recently qualified as a Solicitor within our Dispute Resolution team!

Lauren Joined the firm in October 2021 and is experienced in dealing with a range of litigation matters.

Some words from Lauren:

 “My training as Aston Bond has been an incredibly valuable experience. The opportunities and range of work I have been involved in at Aston Bond has given me a great insight into working in litigation.

I was able to have plenty of client interaction during my training which is important as I was able to gain an understanding of how to communicate with clients from start to finish on their matters.

I am very grateful to have been given the chance to train with Aston Bond and I look forward to continuing to develop my skills as a solicitor within the litigation team.”  

 At Aston Bond we are extremely proud of Lauren and she has worked extremely hard to achieve her goal as a qualified solicitor!

‘Meet the Chamber ‘ event – Friday 20th January 2023

This month, two of our solicitors, Lauren (Litigation) and Lara (Private Client), attended the Reading business networking and ‘Meet the Chamber’ event.

 This was a great opportunity to receive the latest news and updates from the chamber. 

The Reading business networking chamber is one of the largest chambers in the UK and the only accredited Chamber of Commerce in the Thames Valley – they understand the importance of networking and promoting businesses far and wide. 

We feel it’s always beneficial to meet in person from time to time. Getting to know speak to people in different industries increases our ability to help our clients when they need us.

Land registry releases a new digital service

HM Land Registry is the authoritative source of information relating to properties and land ownership. It maintains registers recording things such as who owns a piece of land or property, mortgages secured against the property, house prices, charges, easements & restrictive covenants, boundaries and rights of way.

HM Land Registry has announced its new easy to use digital registration service launches on Wednesday 30th November 2022.

These changes will affect the homepage, the digital registration service and the ability to view applications.

The department believes this will improve the user experience.

Digital applications are said to have;

  1. Newly added features such as additional save points when building applications
  2. Greater control over editing applications before submission
  3. Fee calculator for leases and transfer of part, that calculates fees due automatically.

The department says, ‘The necessary steps should be taken to understand the changes and benefits to customers to familiarise themselves with the service change and where to find the appropriate support and guidance’.

HM Land Registry has been experiencing severe delays throughout its service.  This has been the case since the pandemic and matters do not seem to be improving.  Such delays can prove problematic for a variety of reasons and certainly we at Aston Bond hope the latest changes will be aid HM Land Registry in reducing the backlog.

If you need any guidance on getting set up you can have a read on ;

HM Land Registry portal: login and guides – GOV.UK (

Thousands of Twitter employees sacked by email.

Thousands of Twitter employees have been sacked by email as new owner Elon Musk takes over.

Twitter has been losing large sums of money on a daily basis for some time and so the need for redundancies and streamlining should come as no surprise.  However, with up to 3,700 people – around half the total number of staff – in the line of fire, the news of redundancies (and how they were carried out) has caused understandable concern.

A word of warning was sent to staff on the Thursday evening stating “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday.

“We recognise that this will impact a number of individuals who have made valuable contributions to Twitter, but this action is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward.”

Twitter employees in California received one of two emails.

One notifies the staff members that Friday November 4 is their “last working day at the company” but says they will continue to receive their salary and other benefits up until February.

An alternative email informs the staff member their role is “not impacted by today’s workforce reduction” and promising to share more information next week.

Some staff members were given indications of their impending redundancy before the emails were sent.  For others, the news came as a shock.

Employees are also struggling with control of their Twitter accounts following their firing.

Debates around the brutality of the method used to notify its employees of their job status abound. Some supporters however have stated that email and video calls are arguably an effective way to notify large groups of people of any change.

Employment laws are very different in the US however.  In the UK, employment legislation requires companies to carry out a formal consultation process before any decisions on redundancies are made.  This can include appointing employee representatives in collective redundancy situations.  Additionally, where more than 20 employees are being made redundant, companies are required to report their intentions to the Insolvency Service first. 

At Aston Bond, we believe following a fair process works to protect employees and, ultimately, the business too.  We understand that employment law is a fast-moving area of the law, so we ensure that our advice to is accurate, concise and constructive. We offer realistic solutions to suit you whatever your situation, and ensure you do not fall foul of the law.

For more information, please contact