Legal Terms Jargon Buster

In the legal profession we tend to use a lot of legal jargon.

We try to ensure the information on this website is clear and easy to understand. However, there may be words and phrases you are not sure about. Your solicitor will explain them to you if you ask.

To help, here are some legal words or phrases you may see or hear us talk about with you, and what they mean:

Agent: Someone who acts on behalf of someone else.

Agreement: Where two or more parties reach consensus on a set of facts or course of action.

Allegation: A claim made against someone which has not, and may not, be proved true.

Arbitration: A way of trying to resolve a dispute without going to court. A third party (the arbitrator) looks at both sides of the dispute and decides how it should be resolved. The parties involved may agree to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator.

Assets: Things owned by a person or organisation which usually have some value.

Assistant Solicitor: A person, usually employed by a law firm, who might help on your case. At Wallace Robinson & Morgan all our assistants are qualified solicitors.

Associate: A person, usually employed by a law firm, who might be in charge of handling your case. At Wallace Robinson & Morgan all our associates are qualified solicitors and are considered to be senior assistants.

Bankrupt: The legal status of a person or organisation that is unable to repay debts owned to its creditors.

Barrister: A lawyer regulated by the Bar Standards Board, often specialising in representing people in court, drafting pleadings and expert legal opinions.

Beneficiary: Someone who is entitled to a benefit (e.g. under a will or trust).

Bequest: A gift of money or personal property made in someone’s will.

Chambers: A collection of independent, self-employed barristers who share employed clerks to administer work, and who share the expense of such clerks, office buildings and brand name.

Chattels: Personal belongings that can be moved from one place to another.

Civil law: The area of law covering disputes you may have with a person or organisation.

Claimant: A person making a claim.

Client: Someone who uses services provided by a lawyer or other legal professional.

Compensation: Usually monetary and awarded to someone to make up for loss, injury, or suffering.

Conditions: Requirements, restrictions or permissions added onto a document.

Contract: An agreement signed by two or more parties setting out the terms of an arrangement — for example, between a buyer and a seller in a property transaction.

Continuing professional development (CPD): The training lawyers (and other professionals) are required to complete every year by the organisation regulating them.

Conveyancing: The processes involved in buying, selling or remortgaging a property to transfer its legal title from one person to another.

Counsel: A term used to describe a barrister.

Creditor: A person or organisation to whom money is owed.

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS): The organisation that prosecutes criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

Crown Prosecutor: A lawyer (generally a solicitor or barrister) working for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Culpable: Being at fault or guilty of something.

Damages: An award, typically of money, paid to a person or organisation for loss or injury.

Discrimination: Being treated unfairly or differently because of factors such as disability, race, religion or belief, gender or sexuality.

Disbursement: Fees paid to organisations as required as part of legal services. For example, a payment made by your lawyer to a local authority for property information when buying a house.

Estate: A person’s property, entitlements or obligations.

Evidence: Used to prove or disprove something.

Executor: Someone named in a will who will carry out the directions of the will.

Fee earners: of firms who deliver legal services.

Forfeited (to the Crown): If someone dies without making a will, or their will is invalid, their estate might be passed to the state if relatives cannot be traced.

Fraudster: Someone who commits fraud.

Grounds (legal): The basis or foundation of an action.

Hearing (legal): A legal proceeding where the facts of a particular issue are looked at, and evidence is presented to help decide what the outcome should be.

Incorporated company: A type of private company with shares, but the shares cannot be traded publicly on the stock exchange. The shareholders have limited liability, which means only the money invested in the company can be lost in case of insolvency.

Indemnity: Compensation for, or protection against, loss or damages that might be given by one person to another within a contract or otherwise.

Independent person: Someone free from outside control or influence to act in the way they choose.

Inheritance: Parts of a person’s estate passing to someone else on death.

In-house lawyer: Lawyers working directly for an organisation, such as a bank or local authority, to provide legal advice to the organisation.

Insolvent: Being unable to pay debts when they are due or where liabilities exceed assets.

Instructing: Authorising a lawyer to represent you. An instruction describes the type of work you want them to do.

Integrity: Acting with honesty and morality.

Interest (legal): A right, claim or privilege.

Interim proceedings: Hearings that take place between the first hearing and the final hearing.

Intervention: When a regulator takes control of the papers and monies of a legal practice in order to protect the public.

Intestacy: The condition of having died without a valid will.

Intestate: Any person who dies without leaving a will is said to have died intestate.

Law costs draftsman: A lawyer who settles the legal costs of court cases, and who is regulated by the Association of Costs Lawyers.

Law firm: Organisations that employ lawyers to provide legal advice and legal services.

Law Society of England and Wales: The organisation that represents solicitors and their interests in England and Wales.

Lawyer: A person trained in law, such as an attorney, counsel or solicitor, who practises law.

Legal aid: Government funding that can help some people meet the costs of legal services they require, if they are eligible to receive it.

Legal Ombudsman: An independent body set up to deal with complaints of poor service, covering all lawyers and law firms in England and Wales.

Legal services: Services provided to clients, such as legal advice or representation in court.

Liable: When someone is legally responsible for something.

Liability: Either something that is a hindrance or puts an individual or group at a disadvantage, or something a person is responsible for.

Libel: A defamatory statement made about somebody in written form which is published so people may see it, e.g. in a newspaper article or on a social media website.

Litigation: The process of taking legal action through the court.

Money laundering: The process of concealing the source of illegally obtained money.

Multinational: A business that operates in different countries.

Omission: A failure to perform a particular act where there was a duty or a legal requirement for that act to be carried out.

Out of Court settlement: An agreement between the parties involved in a disagreement to settle the case privately before the court makes its decision.

Partner: Equity partners are usually referred to as partners and are the members of a firm who equally share ownership and liability. The job title can also be used to mean a salaried partner who is a solicitor employed by the equity partners. At Wallace Robinson & Morgan our directors are sometimes referred to as partners. They are considered the senior solicitors in the firm and are often in charge of a particular department.

Partnership: Two or more people working in business together.

Probate: A legal permission provided by a Probate Registry for someone to deal with another person’s estate after they die.

Probate Registry: An office where someone can be interviewed in order to be provided with a probate permission.

Prima facie: A Latin term used to describe something that appears on the face of it to be true.

Public interest: The overall welfare of the general public.

Remunerate: To pay or reward someone for something they have done or a service they have provided, such as a company paying an employee.

Revocation: When something is cancelled or taken away.

Risk: The likelihood that a particular choice or action might lead to a loss or damage.

Scam: Any scheme that cheats people out of their property or money, or causes them damage for the benefit of others.

Slander: A defamatory statement which is spoken and heard by others.

Solicitor: A lawyer who has been admitted as a solicitor by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and whose name appears on the roll of solicitors.

Testator: The person who makes or has made a will. A person who dies, leaving a will.

Third party: A term used to describe someone other than the two sides in a particular situation. For example, in motor insurance policies to describe other people besides the person who is insured and the company that insures them.

Trainee solicitor: A person completing their training requirements in a law firm before qualifying to become a solicitor.

Transparent: Being open and honest in a way that can be understood by others.

Tribunal: Generally means a person or group of people who collectively have authority to judge and/or determine claims or disputes.

Will: A legal document that declares a person’s wishes about the way their estate should be handled when they die.

We hope you find this information useful.

If we have not listed the term you are looking for do let us know by using the comment form on the Contact Us page, or by emailing us on