Legal language is confusing! Our handy guide helps explain the key words you need to know

Sophie Gould, Head of Learning and Development


Legal Glossary

Barrister - a lawyer specialising in court room advocacy and litigation who can speak in the higher courts, which a solicitor is not allowed to do. A barrister will be regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

Break notice – also known as break clauses or break options, these are a clause included in a contract which allows it to be ended, such as a landlord bringing a lease to an end early.

Certificates of title - The Certificate of Title (sometimes called the Report on Title) is a certificate used in property conveyancing and is given to the lender by the conveyancer to confirm that the title is good and marketable, and that the lenders' instructions have been complied with.

Compromise agreement - a legally binding agreement between a business and an employee raised to settle a dispute. Under this agreement the employee agrees to settle their potential claims and in return the employer will agree to pay financial compensation.

Conciliation – a type of alternative dispute resolution whereby an independent party (a conciliator) facilitates communication between the two parties having the dispute. This has the specific aim of achieving a settlement or resolution to the dispute.

Conveyancing - the legal process for carrying out all the actions needed to transfer the legal title and ownership of a piece of land from one person to another.

Counsel - a barrister or group of barristers who can advocate who acts for the prosecution and the defence.

Court of appeal - the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales, and which hears appeals against the decisions of other courts.

Crown court - the court of criminal jurisdiction where people indicted of criminal offences are tried, and which deals with serious offences and appeals referred from the magistrates' courts.

Data subject access request (DSAR) - a written request made by an employee to their employer for information, this usually forms part of a grievance, disciplinary or employment tribunal process.

Disclosure – the act of making available relevant documents or requesting that documents are made available which you believe to be in the possession of the other party.

Disputes – a conflict of claims or rights which becomes the subject of litigation. This can be an assertion of a right, claim, or demand on one side, met by contrary claims or allegations on the other.

Document review - the stage of the legal process whereby parties examine documents connected to a litigation matter to determine if they are relevant, responsive, privileged, sensitive or otherwise relevant to the case. Document review is often carried out by specialist attorneys.

Due diligence – an investigation, audit, or review performed to confirm facts or details of a matter under consideration. This is usually a comprehensive appraisal of a business undertaken by the legal teams of a prospective buyer, especially to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential.

EMI scheme – known as an Enterprise Management Incentive, this is a tax-efficient share option scheme backed by HMRC in the UK, designed for employees or directors working for more than 25 hours per week in a business.

Employment contract - a legal relationship between an employer and an employee. This is usually a written agreement setting out the implied and explicit terms and conditions of employment.

Employment tribunal - specialist employment 'courts' comprising of up to three people – a legally qualified judge and two lay members representing the employer and the employee - who must impartially settle employment disputes relating to issues such as unpaid wages, holiday pay, redundancy pay, interim relief and unfair dismissal .

Form E - used by family solicitors as the means of providing financial information when there are no court proceedings, such as financial matters arising from a divorce or dissolution. It is used to ensure the same amount of detail is provided by both parties.

Freehold - describing land or an area of land that only the owner has any rights over.

Hearing (legal) - any part of a trial or proceeding that takes place in a court.

High court – a part of the Supreme Court which deals with high value and high importance civil law (non-criminal) cases. It is split into three divisions called Queen's Bench Division, Chancery Division and Family Division.

In house lawyer – lawyers hired by a commercial organisation to handle a range of legal issues affecting the company, among them employment, policy, tax and regulatory matters.

Judge - the individual who presides over court proceedings and adjudicates them to ensure legal rules are followed. Judges are appointed by The Crown and the Prime Minister.

Jury - a sworn and representative body of people who listen to and review evidence during a trial and attempt to come to an impartial decision (the verdict). In criminal cases there are 15 jurors, with 12 in civil cases.

Lawyer - a qualified professional who practices law and is authorised to carry out legal activities by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Leasehold - property which is held exclusively by a tenant with a lease for a given period of time in return for rent. Letter before action - sometimes known as a 'letter before claim’, this is a letter putting a person or organisation on notice that court proceedings may be brought against them, for example where a business has an unpaid debt.

Litigation – the commencement of taking legal action through the courts. Magistrate - a Justice of the Peace who presides over minor cases heard in the magistrates' court and is usually a non-legal volunteer.

Magistrates’ courts - the lowest court in England and Wales which generally deals with minor criminal cases, including most criminal cases involving 10- to 17-year-olds, issuing alcoholic drink licences and hearing child welfare cases.

Mediation - a form of alternative dispute resolution in which an independent third party (a mediator) assists the parties to resolve their dispute without going to court. This is often used in family law whereby a mediator may help a husband and wife whose marriage has broken down and help them to agree what should be done about their children, money and property.

Non-disclosure agreement – or NDA is a legal document whereby two parties agree to keep confidential information secret, this could be in order for a business to maintain a competitive advantage. These agreements may be referred to alternatively as confidentiality agreements (CA), confidentiality statements, or confidentiality clauses, within a larger legal document.

Paralegal - a member of a legal team that has extensive knowledge of the law and legal matters, but is not a qualified lawyer. They support lawyers in their work and they can choose to specialise in a specific area of the law. Paralegals work with solicitors, barristers and/or chartered legal executives and are often associate members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).

Post-nuptial agreement – a legal record agreed by people who are married or in a civil partnership, and is made after the marriage or civil partnership has taken place, to record the agreement reached between a couple in relation to what will happen to their finances, should the marriage break down.

Pre-nuptial agreement – a legal record agreed before a marriage or civil partnership which outlines who will be responsible for the property and finances of each partner during the marriage, and who this title and wealth will belong to in the event of a subsequent breakdown of the marriage.

Privilege review - the stage at which all of the documents initially tagged as "Privileged" during the document review stage will be subject to closer scrutiny. At privilege review a final determination is made as to whether or not the document is subject to privileged status.

Redaction – the process of selecting or adapting text in a document, by obscuring or removing sensitive information, in order to prepare the document for publication or release.

Redemption statement - a document usually used when dealing with a property sale, and provided by an existing lender to confirm the outstanding amount owed on the mortgage account.

SaaS contract - the name used for the agreement between a (Software as a Service) SaaS supplier and a SaaS customer which sets out the terms under which SaaS software may be accessed.

Settlement agreement – previously known as a Compromise Agreement, this is a legally binding agreement between an employee and an employer. This usually provides details of a severance payment by the employer in return for the employee agreeing not to pursue any claims in a Tribunal or a Court.

Shareholder agreement - an agreement between the shareholders of a company in order to protect the shareholders’ investment in the company, to establish a fair relationship between the shareholders and to govern how the company is run. It can be between all or, in some cases, only some of the shareholders.

Sole practitioner - is an independent proprietor of a professional practice, such as a lawyer, who is the owner of the business and is responsible for its debts and obligations.

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) - the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales.

Sponsor licence application – the application process to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for an organisation to obtain a Skilled Worker sponsor licence (previously tier 2), the organisation must demonstrate to UKVI that it is a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, that it has relevant HR processes and systems in place and that it has a genuine need for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence. Subject access request (SAR) - a written request made by or on behalf of an individual for the information which he or she is entitled to ask for under section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).

Supplier contract – or supplier agreement, is a pact between a business and a supplier for the delivery of the agreed products or services. It is a legal document which can include terms and clauses which could be used in litigation disputes.

Terms and conditions - any of the clauses which form part of a contract and are a fundamental part of an agreement. The agreement or contract may collapse if a term or condition is broken.

Tribunal court - responsible for the administration of criminal, civil and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales, often involving the resolution of family or employment disputes

Visa application – the application process for a person coming to the UK to study, work, visit or join family.

Wayleave agreement – a legal agreement between a property owner and service provider allowing them access to the property to install services, such as a utility provider.

Witness statement - a legal document recording the evidence of a person, which is signed by that person to confirm that the contents of the statement are true, and which can be used in subsequent litigation proceedings.