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Legal Jargon Dictionary

It’s often said that lawyers are speakers of “legalese”. A language in and of itself that’s gatekept by those in the legalsphere. McCartan Turkington Breen prides itself on the premium service offered to every member of our community regardless of the type of representation required. This is felt so deeply that our senior partner, Colin Mitchell, told Ulster Business Magazine that we “cater for both the man or woman on the street.” That’s why we place a special emphasis on how we communicate. We understand that the practice of law can be complex so we do what we can to keep it simple and concise for the client. Despite this, it might not always be possible to avoid legal jargon.

Lets translate legal speak to plain English

We’ve compiled a list of words and phrases commonly used by solicitors, insurers, the government and the courts and provided some simple translations in this Legal Jargon Dictionary.

Affidavit

A written statement made under oath which is administrated by someone authorised to do so.

Agent

A person who acts on behalf of another person or group.

Arbitration

A type of dispute resolution.

Assets

An item of property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments or legacies.

Beneficiary

A person designated as the recipient of funds or other property under a will, trust, insurance policy, etc.

Bequest

A disposition in a will.

Claim

A form of litigation. A request or demand for payment in accordance with an insurance policy, compensation law, etc.

Claimant

A person who makes a claim.

Consultant

A person who gives independent professional or expert advice that can be used as evidence.

Conveyancing

The branch of law practice consisting of examining titles, giving opinions as to their validity, and drawing of deeds, etc., for the conveyance of property from one person to another.

Counsel (Barrister)

A type of lawyer that specialises in a particular area of law who have the privilege of addressing higher courts. They are instructed by solicitors on behalf of the client and are regulated by the Bar of Northern Ireland

Court

Where a judge or group of judges listen to, consider and rule on a case. A place where justice is administrated. There are eight types of court in Northern Ireland. You can learn more about court structure at Judiciary NI.

Defendant

A person, company, etc., against whom a claim or charge is brought in a court by a claimant.

Defamation

The act of defaming; false or unjustified injury of the good reputation of another, as by slander or libel. Visit our dedicated page on defamation to learn more.

Disbursements

Fees paid by a solicitor on behalf of a client.

Estate

Property or possessions of the deceased.

Executor

A person named in the deceased’s will to carry out the provisions of that will.

General Damages

Compensation awarded for pain, suffering and loss of amenity.

Hearing

A session in which testimony and arguments are presented in court.

Insolvent

The inability to pay creditors what they are owed.

Instruction

The process of a client asking a solicitor to represent them in a case.

Intestate

The rules of intestate apply when someone dies without making a will. If this happens, the law sets out who should deal with the deceased’s affairs and who should inherit their estate.

Liability

An obligation or debt.

Litigation

The process of bringing or contesting a legal action in court

Matter

A legal matter. A case brought by a client and worked on by a solicitor.

Negligence

The failure to exercise the degree of care that, in the circumstances, the law requires for the protection of others or those interests of other people that may be injuriously affected by the want of such care.

Plaintiff

A person who initiated court action. Similar to a claimant.

Probate

The process of officially proving the authenticity and validity of a will.

Professional Fees

The price charged by professionals such as solicitors, barristers and accountants for their services.

Public Prosecution Service

An independent prosecuting body that decides whether cases brought by the PSNI should go to the courts. The Northern Ireland equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Quantum

Quantum is the amount of damages that are awarded to a successful party in a claim. Shortened from the latin phrase, quantum meruit.

Settlement

A mutual agreement in a case that nullifies the need of a hearing.

Special Damages

A compensation to cover the financial losses and expenses incurred.

Third Party 

A person or organisation involved by chance or only incidentally in legal proceedings.

Did you come across an unknown word or phrase on our website?

Have you come across any “legalese” that you feel should be included in the Legal Jargon Dictionary? If so, tell us and we’ll add it to the list.