February 2, 2024

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

This post was written by: Michael Sayers

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.