Archive for January, 2018

Glossary of legal words and phrases Part 2

Damages: Financial compensation

Devil: A barrister paid by another barrister to do the latter’s work

Directives: European legislation which imposes a duty on member states to enact legislation

Director of Public Prosecutions: The head of the Crown Prosecution Service who has power to decide whether prosecutions should proceed

Disability: Under the Naturalisation Act 1870, “disability” meant “the status of being an infant lunatic, idiot or married woman”. The most recent definition is now set out in the Equality Act 2010 as “a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to perform normal day-to-day activities”

Discovery: A civil procedure which enables a party to a case to obtain evidence before a trial by asking the other party questions or requiring the production of documents

Employment Appeal Tribunal: The appellate tribunal for decisions made by employment tribunals

Employment Tribunal: The tribunal with jurisdiction to hear employment disputes

Entail: A settlement of succession in land so that it cannot be bequeathed at pleasure

Eructation: Belching

Ex parte: In summary, legal proceedings brought by one party in the absence of other parties

Fee bag: See Black bag

First instance: The first decision made by a court or tribunal in a case which has subsequently been appealed

Folio: (Obsolete) The number of words (72 or 90) taken as a unit in reckoning the length of a document

Full bottomed wig: The wig worn by judges on ceremonial occasions

Green bag: A bag for exclusive use by judges.

Grievance procedure: Employers’ procedure for complaints by employees

Guinea: 21 shillings. Replaced in 1816 as currency in Britain but retained in legal circles until decimalisation in 1971

Habeas corpus (Have your carcase): An ancient remedy requiring the production of a detained person to a court

Hearing: A formal session in a court or tribunal

Human rights: Fundamental rights and freedoms

In camera: Private hearing

Incorrigible rogue: A criminal offence of vagrancy under the Vagrancy Act 1824. Last known to be invoked in 2000 against a 19 year old

Inns of Court: Four legal societies having the exclusive right of admitting persons to practise at the Bar (Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn)

Intellectual property: Exclusive rights to a range of intangible assets, for example copyright, trademarks and patents

Glossary A-C



The following is a provisional explanation of words and phrases which in my experience I have had to explain to students and clients or which have a technical legal meaning different from their normal usage.

Actus reus: Conduct of the accused: see R v Miller (1983)

Advocacy: Professional pleading in court

Advocate: Any person who represents another in legal proceedings

Attorney General: The principal law officer of the government, and head of the Bar

Bands: The development of a neckband into two hanging strips

Bear Garden: Rooms in the Law Courts where Masters hear short applications (see Chapter 6 for full description)

Bench wig: The wig worn by judges when they are sitting in court

Bencher: A senior member of an Inn of Court

Bibliography: A systematic list of books and articles used as source material

Black bag: The bag at the back of the barrister’s gown is often called a fee bag. The origin of this is said to be that the barrister’s fee was placed in the bag so that the barrister did not have to demean himself by handling money

Blue bag: The traditional bag used by junior barristers for carrying fancy dress

Bona fide: Genuine

Breach of statutory duty: Breaking a duty imposed by statute

Breeks: A Scottish term for trousers

Bundle: A collection of documents

Cab rank principle: A barrister has a public obligation, based on the paramount need for access to justice, to act for any client in cases within their field of practice. A barrister cannot refuse a case because of disapproval of what the client has done or is alleged to have done

Call: A formal ceremony, conducted at the Inns of Court, when a student barrister has completed vocational training and is qualified to act as an advocate under the supervision of another barrister

Case law: Law created by decisions of courts

Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware. A disclaimer of responsibility

Chambers: A judge sitting in chambers does not mean that he is sitting in any particular room, but that he is not sitting in open court. Also, the traditional name for a group of barristers sharing office space

Chambers tea: A traditional gathering of barristers for light refreshments at a particular time

Champerty: The  offence of assisting in a case with a view to receiving a share of the disputed property

Civil action/proceedings: Legal proceedings based on a civil right as opposed to a criminal prosecution

Civil Procedure Rules (CPR): Procedural rules prescribed for civil courts

Class justice: Justice which operates in favour of one class and against another

Clerk: An administrative assistant to judges, magistrates or barristers

Client: Customer

Collar stud: A device for attaching a collar to a tunic shirt. There are two types of collar stud. One is short and used at the back of the shirt. The other is long, hinged  and is used at the front

Collarette: A female barrister’s collar. It consists of a high, round, soft collar. The extra fabric forming the front sits over the shoulders and chest and hides clothing

Common law: Law which has been developed by the judiciary through the setting of precedents, as opposed to being created by the legislature through statutes and regulations

Conditional fee agreement: An agreement for the supply of legal services where a fee is payable only in certain circumstances, normally if the client wins

Conduct of litigation: Steps taken by a restricted group of lawyers to progress a case

Conspiracy: An agreement to carry out an unlawful act

Contingency fee: An agreement for the supply of legal services where a fee is payable only if the client wins

Conveyancing: The transfer of an interest in land.

Corporate manslaughter: Under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, a company is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised amounts to a gross breach of the duty of care which it owes to employees or the public and those failings have caused a death

Counsel: Barrister

Crown immunity: The ancient principle that the sovereign and many government departments are exempt from legal sanctions