Legal words explained

We always try to advise and communicate in clear language that is easy to understand. Please feel free to tell us if you do not understand something.

However, we know that the law contains many unfamiliar words, and we set out some of these below, together with an explanation of what they mean:

Legal TermMeaning
AppealAn application to a higher Court for a decision of a lower Court to be reconsidered or reversed because it is claimed to be wrong.
BailiffA person whose job it is to ensure that Court orders are obeyed.
Counsel/BarristerA lawyer who advises on legal issues and represents one side or the other in a Court case.
CourtThere is a distinction between Criminal Courts (in which cases concerning crimes are decided) and Civil Courts (in which disputes between persons and companies are decided). There are different levels of court.
Court of ProtectionA Court that exists to make decisions on financial or welfare matters for people who lack Mental Capacity.
ClaimantThe person who is making a claim in Court against another person or company (called the Defendant)
ClientAnyone who uses our services.
DefendantThe person against who a claim is made by the Claimant.
FileThis is legal-speak for taking or sending to Court a document which needs to be there. Most filing of documents is now done electronically.
InjunctionA Court order that prevents a person or company from doing a particular act, or requires them to do something.
IntestacyWhen a person dies without having made a will, the State has made rules as to how their property should pass, and who is responsible for dealing with it (called obtaining Letters of Administration).
IssueThis is the step of getting the Court to start dealing with a claim or application. Confusingly, the word is also used to identify one of the topics in the case (as in “the issues in dispute are …”)
Judicial ReviewWhen a judge considers whether a decision made by a public body was lawful.
LeaseA form of tenancy agreement, typically for a long period. The person in the position of the landlord is called the Lessor and the person in the position of the tenant is called the Lessee.
Legal AidFinancial assistance given to individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford legal advice or Representation.
Legal Expenses InsuranceA type of insurance that can cover the costs of legal actions.
LesseeThe person in the position of the tenant under a Lease.
LessorThe person in the position of the landlord under a Lease.
Means TestingRules for determining whether an individual or family is eligible for government assistance based on their income.
MediationA cost-effective-way to resolve disputes, where persons can discuss and try to resolve their differences under the supervision of a trained neutral mediator (negotiator).
Mental CapacityThe ability of persons aged 16 and over to make all or some financial or welfare decisions for themselves. If a perosn lacks Mental Capacity, it will be necessary to involve the Court of Protection.
Notice seeking possessionA legal warning stating that the Lessee (or tenant) may have broken the terms of the tenancy agreement. It is sent by the council or housing association to start the process of evicting the tenant.
Notice to quitThe notice given by a landlord to a tenant to leave the premises within a given time period.
Pro bonoLawyers and law students giving up their time on a voluntary basis for people who need legal advice, but cannot afford it.
ProbateWhen a person dies having made a will, the will sets out to whom their property is to pass, and the task is entrusted to Executors. Their authority is derived from an administrative step called Probate. (Where there is no will, see Intestacy)
RepossessionWhen a lender applies to Court to evict the home owner for missing mortgage or other loan payments secured on the home.
Represent/ RepresentationThe term used for when (usually) a lawyer speaks up for someone else either in writing or in Court.
TraffickingThe trade of people for exploitation and commercial gain.
TribunalA court specialising in certain disputes.