Legal Jargon Explained

If you need to use legal services you might come across words and phrases that you are not sure about. Here is a summary of some words you might hear, and what they mean.

Agent

Someone who acts on behalf of someone else. 

Agreement

Where two parties reach consensus on a set of facts or course of action: For example, where particular misconduct is admitted and a sanction agreed.

Allegation

A claim made against someone which has not and may not be proved true 

Arbitration

A way of seeking to resolve a dispute without going to court: A third party (the arbitrator) looks at both sides of the dispute and makes a decision as to how it should be resolved; those 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 

Bankrupt

The legal status of a person or organisation that is unable to repay debts owed to its creditors

Barrister

A lawyer regulated by the Bar Council often specialising in court room representation, 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

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 an organisation 

Claimant

A person making a claim

Compensation

Recompense for loss, injury, or suffering 

Conditions

Requirements, restriction or permission 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 that Solicitors (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 

Culpable

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, sex or sexuality

Disbursement/Outlay

Fees that are paid to organisations as required as part of legal services: For example, this could be a payment made by your Solicitor to a local authority for a property certificate when selling a house. 

Estate

A person's property, entitlements or obligations

Evidence

That which tends to prove or disprove something 

Executor

Someone named in a Will who will carry out the directions of the will

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

Indemnity

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

Inheritance

Parts of someone's estate passing to someone on death

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 that you want them to do. 

Interest (legal)

A right, claim or privilege

Interim proceedings

In law, interim proceedings are hearings that take place between the first hearing and the final hearing. 

Intestate

Any person who dies without leaving a Will is said to have died intestate

Law Society of Northern Ireland

The Law Society is the regulatory body for solicitors in Northern Ireland. 

Legal aid

Government funding that can help people meet the costs of legal services they require, if they are eligible to receive it. It is also used to support legal assistance being provided at police stations where someone is arrested.

Legal services

Services provided to clients, such as legal advice or representation in court 

Liable

When someone is legally responsible for something

Liability

Can mean something that is a hindrance or puts an individual or group at a disadvantage, or it can be something a person is responsible for 

Litigation

The contest process before a court

Money laundering

The process of concealing the source of illegally obtained money

Obligation

A requirement to take a particular type of action, that may have a legal basis through a contract 

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 two sides to settle the case privately before the court makes its decision 

Partnership

Two or more people working in business together

Probate

A legal permission provided by the High Court of Northern Ireland for someone to deal with someone else's estate after they die. 

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

Public Prosecution Service

            The PPS decides whether or not to prosecute people for committing criminal offences. It decides what the correct charges should be and is also responsible for prosecuting the             case at court. The PPS prosecutes all offences investigated by the PSNI and some offences investigated by Government Departments such as the DSD Benefit Investigation                 Service.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)

Crimes are investigated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). When the PSNI investigate a crime, they send a file to the PPS to decide who is to be prosecuted and for what offences 

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

Roll of solicitors

A list of all admitted solicitors held by the Law Society of Northern Ireland

Solicitor

A lawyer who has been admitted as a solicitor by the Law Society of Northern Ireland and whose has been enrolled as a solicitor for the Court of Judicature of Northern

Ireland 

Striking-off/struck-off

An example is where a solicitor is struck from the roll of solicitors.

Third party

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

Tribunal

Any general reference to a tribunal means a person or group of people who collectively have authority to judge and/or determine claims or disputes. For a full range of tribunals in Northern Ireland please visit the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Website www.courtsni.gov.uk or the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunals Website www.employmenttribunalsni.co.uk

Will

A legal document that declares a person's wishes about the way their Estate should be handled when they die

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