Legal English: A little glossary of common English vocabulary for international lawyers

Common English vocabulary for international lawyers


International lawyers who interact with American lawyers or American courts will find that there are common English vocabulary for international lawyers , i.e. lingo or lawyerspeak that goes with the common practice of law. Sure, a lot depends on the area of practice but some words are fairly common no matter what the area of practice.

Below is a random list of common English vocabulary for International lawyers who want to improve their Legal English.  Can you define them? These common English vocabulary for international lawyers were pulled from different areas of law. Can you think of any other  common English vocabulary for International lawyers that are not listed but that you think will help you improve your LEGAL ENGLISH skills?


Common English vocabulary for international lawyers : A LITTLE GLOSSARY OF LEGAL TERMS

Agreement – A negotiated arrangement between parties as to certain course of action they will take.

Arbitration – An out of court proceeding with binding effect in which a dispute is resolved by one or more persons who have been designated as arbitrators or arbiters by the parties in the dispute.

Assignment –The transfer of all rights, claims, duties and obligations under a contract to a third party.

Authenticate – to verify the veracity, truth and reliability of a document

Breach – to fail to perform one’s duties under a contract

Case law – under the common law it is the body of prior cases or “precedent” upon which judges and lawyers rely to determine what the law is in the case pending; by extension, it related to this notion of stare decisis whereby courts are bound by their previous decisions

Contract – An Agreement between two or more persons to take a certain course of action where there is an offer, acceptance and consideration.

Common Law – Common Law (as contrasted with statutory law), also known as case law, or precedent, is judge made law vis a vis laws created by the legislature.

Common Law Legal System – A “common law system” as contrasted with a “Civil Law Legal System” is a legal system that rests on the principle that similar facts and cases should be treated the same; thus in a common law system the court is bound by stare decisis, I.e; the court must follow the legal  reasoning used in the preceding cases; that is the courts are bound by legal precedents.

Defendant – the defendant is the person being sued in a legal proceeding; sometimes  the term defendant is used in a criminal context and “Respondent” is used in a civil context, like in a family law matter for example. But the terms “defendant” and “respondent” are essentially synonymous under American law and are often interchangeable. It really depends on the court and which word the court generally uses. So you have to consult the practice book for the particular jurisdiction. One way to look at it is the “Defendant” is sued and this process is usually commenced with a “complaint.” The Respondent is not so much sued as being hauled into court for some reason and the respondent usually receives a “petition.” How is a petition different from a complaint?  Well, a petition usually is filed to get personal relief; as in a divorce action. A complaint is more about getting the court to punish or compel a party to do something – as in a criminal proceeding for example.

Directive – this is an order or instruction from a higher authority.

Draft – in a Contracts context, it is the version of an agreement (or document)  that is not final and thus would normally not be binding.   In a non-contracts context, it simple means a working version of a document that had not been finalized as far as editorially, as far as terms, as far as issues, as far as formalities.

Draft Agreement – A draft agreement is a version of a contract that serves as a model for a particular type of agreement.

Endorsement – In law, an endorsement is a signature.

Enforceable – In contracts, it describes an agreement whose performance can be compelled judicially by operation of law.

Execute – to execute a contract is to carry through with the obligations and duties which were created by the contract.

File – To file an action means to officially put the action on the court’s calendar by purchasing an index number with the clerk

Insolvency — bankruptcy

Intellectual Property Intangible assets and “property” which are the result of creative endeavors which receive legal recognition and protecction Under most legal systems in the form of copyright protetion, trademark protection, patents and industrial design.

Joint and several liability liability of more than one person that can be attributed to one or all of a group of persons.

Litigant – a party in a litigation.

Litigation – a legal dispute, typically a civil matter (criminal matters are more “proceedings”)  that is being heard before a court.

Matter – In law, it is a legal issue or case or otion that is either pending or developing before the courts.

Notarize – to notarize a document is to authenticate the signature of the person who signed the document; this is carried out by a notary public.

Party – a party is an individual in a lawsuit; it could be plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, claimant, repondent…any person who is named in the suit is a party.

Patent – a patent is intellectual property interest in an invention.

Petition – a formal request made by a party for a particular relief from a court of law.

Petitioner – a petitioner is the person who files a petition.

Plaintiff – a plaintiff is the person who files a complaint

Power of Attorney – A power of attorney is a formal transfer of authority to act on one’s behalf by one person to another

Practice of Law — The practice of law is the formal term for the work that attorneys do. It includes litigation as well as transactional types of work like Contract law and Real Estate Law. It really covers every and any type of work a lawyer does for his or her client including going to court, drafting documents, giving legal advice and researching the law. It is somewhat of a fuzzy term these days because many non-lawyers in the U.S. are now providing services to clients that have been traditionally the work of lawyers, aka, “practice of law.” This includes accountants, bankers, paralegals and others.

Pro Hace Vice For this matter only. This is a scenario where an attorney not admitted to practice law in a particular jurisdiction seeks special permission from the court to appear in a legal matter before that court.

Remedies – Remedies in law are the types of relief available to an aggrieved party. They include damages; specific  performance (such as with contracts); and equitable relief such as injunctions.

Respondent – The person against whom a petition is filed.

Royalties – Royalties are earnings on intellectual property such as from books, music and natural resources such as oil; in effect, a royalty is an ongoing payment made by one party to use another person’s assets or property. It is a type of licensing agreement that results in regular earnings for the owner of the asset or property.

Shareholder Agreement – An agreement between the shareholders in a corporation.

Statute – A statute is law that is devised and promulgated by a legislature; statutory law can be contrasted with common law which is judge made law.

Tort – A tort is a harm or injury inflicted on a person by another person or thing.

Tribunal – A tribunal is a judicial body like a court

Trier of Fact – The trier of fact is either the judge or the jury; it is the person or persons who listen to the facts of a case to determine the true facts.

Unauthorized – Something that is unauthorized is either illegal, or impermissible.

Vicarious liability – Vicarious liability refers to the responsibility a “superior” shares when a subordinate acts on behalf of the superior. It is basically an agency relationship that is construed to exist under the principle of respondeat superior.


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