The following is a glossary (guide) of legal terminology. Please note however that this glossary is
for guidance only and is not intended as an exhaustive or comprehensive source of definitions.
The meanings provided are those commonly associated with the words and phrases in a legal
context and it should be borne in mind that those same words and phrases may have a different
meaning in a different context.
Acknowledgement of Service Court form
used by a party to legal proceedings to confirm
receipt of a Statement of Case (such as a claim
Acquittal A finding by a court of not guilty to
a criminal charge.
Action Legal proceedings / Claim.
Advocacy Representing a party by means of
spoken submission to a court or tribunal.
Advocate A court lawyer.
Affidavit A written statement sworn on oath.
Agenda An itinerary or list of matters for discussion
at a meeting.
Aggravated Damages Additional compensation
awarded by a court to compensate for
particularly objectionable conduct on the part
of the Defendant.
Agreement Contract or arrangement agreed
orally or in writing between different parties.
Alibi A defence to a criminal charge based on
the contention that the accused was elsewhere
when the crime is alleged to have been committed.
Appeal Challenge to the validity or correctness
of a decision of a court or tribunal (usually
based on the contention that the law was incorrectly
Appellant Term used to describe a party appealing
against a court or tribunal decision.
Applicant Person or organisation commencing
Employment Tribunal proceedings or
making an application to court for a specific
remedy prior to trial.
Arrest The physical seizure of an individual
(normally by a policeman) on suspicion of a
crime having been committed by that individual
or to prevent a crime being committed.
Attorney American term for lawyer.
Bail The release of an individual from police
custody pending further appearance by that
person in court or at a police station.
Barrister A lawyer who is a specialist court
advocate and referred to as ‘counsel’ (often being
instructed by a solicitor to appear in court
on behalf of a client).
Brief to Counsel Set of instructions prepared
by a solicitor and provided to a barrister, setting
out details of a case (including relevant facts
and law etc.) to enable the barrister to provide
representation in court on behalf of a client.
Burden of Proof Term used to indicate
which party the onus is placed on to establish
or prove a case and to what degree. E.g. in a
civil case the burden of proof is on the
Claimant to establish the case on the ‘balance
of probabilities’ (whereas in a criminal case
the prosecution must normally establish the
case beyond all reasonable doubt).
Case-law Law created by court decisions, i.e.
law created by cases which provide precedents
of relevance for future legal disputes (see
Cause of Action The legal grounds or basis
of a claim or ‘action’ commenced in court (e.g.
breach of contract).
Case A legal dispute between specific parties.
Certificate of Incorporation Certificate issued
by the Registrar of Companies confirming
that a company has been incorporated (i.e.
legally recognised as having been created).
Chambers Has two main meanings: (1) to refer
to a hearing in private as opposed to in
open court (ref. to as being ‘in chambers’) and
(2) to refer to a barrister’s place of work (‘counsel’s
Charge Allegation (usually in writing) of specific
criminal conduct against an individual.
(That individual is then said to have been
‘charged’ – such as with theft for instance.)
Civil Action / Proceedings Legal action based
on a civil right (as opposed to a criminal action)
such as breach of contract, for instance.
Claim Form Court form used to commence
legal proceedings in court.
Class Action A legal action commenced in
the name of one or a few named Claimants on
behalf of a class of Claimants.
Client Term used by lawyers to refer to their
Common Law Legal rules and principles
founded on court decisions as opposed to
statutes or similar written laws or regulations.
Conference with Counsel Meeting between a
barrister and a client (usually in the presence of
Contempt of Court Refusal or failure to comply
with a court order or requirement.
Contingency Fees Fees charged by a lawyer
for legal work which are based on a percentage
of the damages recovered on behalf of that
client. (Generally only permissible in the USA
albeit contingency fees can be charged in Employment
Tribunal cases in the UK.)
Contract A legally enforceable agreement.
Contributory Negligence Degree to which a
Claimant is deemed to have contributed to or
caused the accident or degree of injury for
which damages are being claimed. (Damages
can be reduced to reflect this degree of contributory
Conviction A finding by a court or tribunal
that an individual is guilty of the offence
charged. (That person is then said to have been
‘convicted’ of the offence charged–e.g. theft.)
Corroboration Evidence from an independent
source which substantiates a party’s
version of events.
Costs Term used to refer to legal costs or expenses
of legal work conducted by lawyers on
behalf of clients.
Counsel Term used to refer to a barrister.
(Barristers awarded the distinction of being
known as ‘Queen’s Counsel’ are known as
‘senior counsel’; also a term in the US for an
Counsel’s Opinion Legal advice proposed by
Counterclaim A claim by a Defendant in
legal proceedings who in turn alleges that he
has a legal claim against the Claimant.
County Court Civil court which usually deals
with lower value civil cases.
Court List List or schedule prepared by a
court which provides details of the date and
time that each trial or hearing is scheduled for.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
(CICA) A Government scheme to provide
monetary compensation to victims of crimes of
Appendix 2 Glossary
Cross-Examination Questioning of a witness
in court by a party other than the party calling
that particular witness to provide evidence.
Crown Court Criminal court of the Supreme
Court of England and Wales with jurisdiction
over the most serious criminal cases. (There are
a number of Crown Courts located throughout
England and Wales.)
Custodial Sentence A sentence of imprisonment
by a court or tribunal.
Damages Monetary compensation (such as
for personal injury).
Defence Statement of case setting out the legal
grounds and details on which a Defendant
is defending legal proceedings being pursued
against that Defendant.
Defendant The party to legal proceedings
against whom the claim is being made by the
Deposition A written or recorded witness
statement taken on oath.
Directions A list of steps or instructions,
usually issued by a court, setting out the specific
actions which each party in a legal action
is required to comply with prior to the case
being heard in court. (In order to ensure that
the legal proceedings concerned proceed efficiently
and that the parties in the case have
properly prepared their cases in readiness for
Director Individual with management responsibilities
within a company. (All directors
of a company are collectively referred to as the
‘board of directors’.)
Disbursements Costs incurred in the course
of legal work other than a solicitor’s fees (e.g.
travelling expenses and fees payable to expert
Discontinuance A situation whereby the
Claimant in civil proceedings voluntarily confirms
that the case is no longer being pursued
(i.e. is being ‘discontinued’).
Disclosure Revealing to another party to legal
proceedings the past or present existence of
evidential material (usually documents) which
may be relevant to the case.
Discovery The process whereby each party to
legal proceedings reveals details of documentation
and information in their possession which
may be relevant to the case. (Thereby providing
another party in the case with the opportunity
to inspect or obtain copies of such material. The
court usually orders that discovery should take
place simultaneously between the parties.)
District Judge A judicial officer of the County
Court who acts as judge in many straightforward
County Court cases.
Documentary Evidence Evidence in written
form (e.g. letters and contracts etc.).
Evidence Information and material (such as
witness testimony and documentation) relevant
to a case and on which a court or tribunal
bases its findings.
Evidence in Chief Evidence elicited from a
witness by the party calling that witness.
Examination in Chief Questioning of a witness
in court by the party calling that particular
witness to give evidence.
Exemplary Damages Additional compensation
awarded by a court amounting to more
than the actual losses sustained by a party and
intended as a penalty to reflect the court’s particular
disapproval of the Defendant’s conduct.
(Usually only awarded in US courts, where
some exemplary damages awards have
amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars.)
Ex parte A hearing in court which takes place
with one of the parties to the proceedings being
absent. (A more modern equivalent phrase
now commonly used is ‘without notice’.)
Expert Witness Witness called to provide
evidence involving professional expertise in a
particular field which is relevant to a particular
case (e.g. a doctor).
Appendix 2 Glossary
Express Term Term or provision in an agreement
which is specifically (i.e. expressly) stated
Extraordinary General Meeting Any general
(shareholders’) meeting of a company other
than its Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Further and Better Particulars More specific
detail or information of a specific aspect of the
case referred to in the statements of case (court
documents). (Such further detail or information
will usually be provided in response to a
request by a party for such further detail or information
in order to clarify the claim being
General Damages Compensation which can
only be determined by reference to previous
cases of a similar nature or by the court (including
for instance damages for pain and
High Court Civil court which deals with
higher value civil cases.
I.e. Abbreviation for Latin phrase ‘id est’ and
meaning ‘that is’ or ‘in other words’.
Illegal Against the law. (E.g. stealing is illegal.)
Implied Term Term of an agreement not expressly
stated but recognised in law by virtue
of the obvious understanding between the parties
or by their conduct or the circumstances of
the agreement. (An implied term can also be
imposed by statute, e.g. implied term of satisfactory
In Camera In private. (E.g. a court hearing
closed to the public is sometimes referred to as
being ‘in camera’.)
Injunction A court order compelling a person
to do or refrain from doing something.
In Open Court A trial or court hearing in
Instructions to Counsel Written information
prepared by a solicitor and provided to a barrister
to enable that barrister to provide advice
to a client or to draft legal documentation on
behalf of a client. Such ‘instructions to counsel’
usually include a summary of the facts of the
case, relevant law and any relevant supporting
Interim Order An order made by a court
prior to the final trial or hearing of a particular
case (e.g. an order for directions setting out the
further steps each party is required to take
prior to trial).
Interlocutory Application / Hearing / Order
An application to court, court hearing or court
order made prior to trial.
Inter partes Term used to refer to a court
hearing at which all parties are present (as opposed
to an ‘ex-parte’ hearing at which at least
one party is absent).
Interrogatory A request for further information.
Issue (of Proceedings) To commence legal
proceedings by lodging relevant papers at
court (such as a claim form). (This is referred to
as ‘issuing proceedings’.)
Judge Trier or adjudicator of a case responsible
for making findings of law (and sometimes
of fact albeit also see ‘jury’ below).
Judg(e)ment A decision or declaration of the
court, usually setting out the court’s findings
and details of any damages (compensation) or
other remedy which the court has decided to
grant to any party in the case.
Jurisdiction The authority to decide and enforce
the law. (E.g. the County and High Courts
have jurisdiction to try breach of contract cases
in England and Wales.)
Jury Group of individuals (usually 12) who
make findings of fact in the most serious criminal
cases (usually in the Crown Court in
England and Wales).
Intellectual Property Law relating to copyright,
rights to inventions (patents) and
Law A system of rules and regulations governing
and determining permissible conduct
Appendix 2 Glossary
Leading Question A question which suggests
the answer or which implies the existence of
some particular fact(s) or circumstances.
Leave Permission. (E.g. to seek ‘leave of the
court’ is to seek permission of the court.)
Legal Privilege A legal right to refuse to disclose
or produce documentation or other
evidence on the basis of some special interest
recognised by law. (Typically relating to the
legally recognised right for discussions and
correspondence between lawyer and client to
remain ‘privileged’ and thus protected from
Letter Before Action Correspondence sent by
a prospective Claimant or his legal advisor intimating
to another party an intention to
commence legal action against that other party
along with brief details of the proposed legal
action. (Note that a more modern equivalent is
‘letter of claim’.)
Letter of Claim Modern term for ‘letter before
action’ (see above).
Liability Legal responsibility to comply with
or discharge a legal obligation or indebtedness.
Limitation Period The time-limit prescribed
by law in which a Claimant must commence a
claim in court. Failure to issue the claim in
court within this time-limit will usually result
in the Claimant losing the legal right to pursue
that particular claim. (E.g. the limitation period
for a personal injury claim is three years in the
Listing for Trial Procedure for providing the
court with final documentation and information
in order to enable the court to finalise a
date for trial.
Litigant A party to legal proceedings (i.e. to
litigation – see below).
Litigation Legal action / proceedings involving
a dispute between parties.
Liquidated Damages A term used to refer to
a specifically quantifiable amount of monetary
compensation which a Claimant is seeking
from another party. (I.e. a sum which can be
precisely calculated as opposed to an amount
which is variable at the court’s discretion.)
Locus Location of an incident, particularly of
Magistrates’ Court Criminal Court in England
and Wales which tries the relatively less
serious criminal cases. (Usually conducted by a
Member A company shareholder.
Minutes Record of matters discussed and
decided in the course of directors’ and shareholders’
Minor An individual under 18 years of age.
Mitigation A term used in criminal law to
refer to submissions seeking to justify or at
least provide some explanation for a party’s
conduct and aimed at persuading a court or
tribunal to show some sympathy towards that
party. (See also ‘Mitigation of Damages’
Mitigation of Damages A term used in civil
law to refer to efforts made by a Claimant to
minimise or alleviate loss and damage sustained.
Negligence Used in a legal sense to refer to a
failure to comply with a duty of care towards
others imposed by law or by generally accepted
Oral Evidence Spoken (as opposed to documentary)
Party Person or organisation entering into an
agreement or engaged in legal proceedings.
Plaintiff Person or party commencing a legal
action. Note that the term ‘Claimant’ is now
used in English courts in place of ‘Plaintiff’ (the
term ‘Plaintiff’ still being in general use however
in American courts).
Pleadings A term previously used to refer to
the court documents setting out each party’s
case and now largely superseded by the term
‘Statements of Case’.
Appendix 2 Glossary
Poll Means of voting at shareholders’ meetings
whereby votes on a particular resolution
are counted on the basis of the number of voting
shares held by each person voting (as
opposed to ‘on a show of hands’).
Precedent Existing document, draft or court
decision which is relevant to and used as the
basis for subsequent legal drafting or decisions.
(‘Doctrine of Precedent’ refers to a concept
whereby previous court decisions establish the
general legal position for subsequent legal disputes
involving similar circumstances.)
Privilege (See ‘Legal Privilege’ above.)
Proceedings Term used to refer to an ongoing
court action (known as court or legal proceedings).
Proxy An individual appointed to represent a
shareholder at a shareholders’ meeting.
Quantum (of Damages) The level or amount
of monetary compensation (damages) awarded
by a court or agreed between the parties to a
case by negotiation.
Quash Over-rule or annul a previous court
Queen’s Counsel A title bestowed on barristers
who have demonstrated a high level of
professional expertise and competence. Barristers
appointed as ‘Queen’s Counsel’ may use
the letters ‘QC’ after their names and are sometimes
referred to as ‘silks’ or ‘Leading Counsel’.
Quorum Minimum number required to be
present at a meeting in order for decisions
taken at that meeting to be valid.
Registered Office Official address of a company
as recorded with the Registrar of
Companies at which official documents and legal
proceedings can be served on a company.
Registrar of Companies Official responsible
for maintaining the ‘Company Registry’
recording details of incorporated companies.
Remedy The specific means by which a party
receives restitution or satisfaction for loss
caused by another. (E.g. the usual remedy for
personal injury is damages.)
Resolution A decision made by members of a
Respondent Person defending an application
to court for a specific order or defending Employment
Return Date Date set by a court for an interlocutory
Restrictive Covenant Clause to prevent an employee
competing etc. with his/her employer.
Rights of Audience Right to appear in and
address a particular court or tribunal.
Service Provision or delivery of court documentation
(such as a claim form or notice of a
forthcoming court hearing etc.). A person receiving
such documentation is referred to as
having been ‘served’.
Set Aside A subsequent order or direction
from a court cancelling a previous judgment or
order (referred to as ‘setting aside’ the previous
order or direction).
Setting Down for Trial Now usually referred
to as ‘listing for trial’. (See ‘Listing for Trial’
Settlement An agreement reached between
parties to a legal dispute which concludes that
Shareholder Owner of shares in a company
(i.e. who is a ‘member’ of that company).
Solicitor A lawyer who prepares cases and
legal transactions on behalf of a client (often instructing
a barrister to provide representation
Special Damages Actual financial losses which
can be specifically ascertained as having been incurred
between the date the cause of action arose
and the date of trial. (E.g. loss of earnings up to
trial and property damage sustained etc.)
Standard of Proof The criterion or degree of
proof required in order for a party to establish
its case. (E.g. in civil cases the standard of proof
Appendix 2 Glossary
Appendix 2 Glossary
is ‘on the balance of probabilities’ whereas in a
criminal case it is usually ‘beyond all reasonable
Statute Legislation in the form of written
laws and regulations (such as ‘Acts of Parliament’
created by the UK Parliament).
Stay A halt to court proceedings. Proceedings
which are thus ‘stayed’ do not continue any further
(although a stay can subsequently be ‘lifted’
to enable those proceedings to continue).
Strike Out To ‘strike out’ means that the court
has ordered that a particular aspect of a case
(such as particular written details in a statement
of case) is to be removed from the court records
and can therefore no longer be relied upon. The
court can strike out an entire case if a party is
sufficiently dilatory in complying with steps
required by the court, thereby effectively terminating
Subpoena Witness summons requiring a witness
to attend court to give evidence.
Sue Informal term meaning to issue legal
Testimony Statement or assertion made to a
court by a witness.
Tort A breach of a duty imposed by civil law
Unliquidated Damages Damages (monetary
compensation) which cannot be precisely
quantified upon commencement of legal proceedings
(as opposed to liquidated damages
which can–see above).
Vicarious Liability A legal concept whereby
a person or entity can be held liable for the
fault or wrongdoing of another. (A typical example
of this is an employer being liable for
the negligence of an employee acting in the
course of his employment, i.e. vicariously
Without Prejudice A legal concept whereby
oral or written communication can be entered
into between parties with a view to reaching a
negotiated settlement. I.e. on the basis that the
details of such communication cannot be disclosed
to the court or relied upon in court in
the event that a settlement is not achieved.
Writ Court form traditionally used to commence
legal proceedings in court. (Note that
claim forms are now used far more commonly
for commencing legal proceedings.)