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Lawpack - Legal glossary
Category: Legal
Date & country: 10/01/2008, UK
Words: 266


Acquittal
A finding by a criminal court that the accused is not guilty of the offence for which he has been tried.

Adjournment
Postponing an event, such as a court case or a company meeting, to a later date.

Administrator
Someone empowered to act for another. For example, if someone dies without leaving a Will, his nearest relatives may apply for Letters of Administration appointing them as administrators of the estate. A company which cannot pay its debts may 'go into administration' and an administrator is then appointed to manage its affairs.

Admission
The acceptance that a fact or statement is true which then, in court proceedings, cannot be denied without the court's permission.

ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)
A mediation procedure that has, since 1999, been encouraged by the courts to avoid cases taking up the courts' time when they could be settled. An unreasonable refusal to mediate may result in the winning party to an action being unable to recover his costs. See also Mediation.

Adult
Someone who is treated by the law as no longer being a minor, having attained the age of 18 in England and Wales or 16 in Scotland.

Adverse possession
The possession of property without the permission of the owner. If this continues for a sufficient time, not secretly but openly for all the world to see, the owner may be prevented from claiming it back.

Affidavit or Affirmation
A written statement of fact made on oath and signed in the presence of an authorised person (e.g. a solicitor). Now called a Statement of Truth.

Agent
A person appointed to act on behalf of someone else (known as 'the principal').

Aggravated damages
See Exemplary damages.

Allotment
The issue of new shares in the capital of the company or the shares themselves.

Ancillary relief
An additional remedy provided by the court to make the normal remedy more effective and complete - for example, long term maintenance arrangements taking effect after a divorce is complete.

Annulment
Invalidity; especially a declaration that a marriage has never existed in law because of some basic defect like bigamy.

Appeal
To ask a higher court or authority to change the decision of a lower one.

Applicant
Someone who makes a formal application or request. In the case of court applications, an applicant was formerly called a plaintiff.

APR (Annual Percentage Rate)
The true cost of borrowing. It takes into account all the fees in obtaining a particular loan, such as arrangement fees, the actual interest rate on the loan and when the payments are due for the duration of the loan. An APR has, by law, to be quoted in all advertisements and publications with the aim of preventing lenders from misleading the publi …

Arbitration
The reference of a dispute for decision to a person or persons other than a court. This may be by agreement between the parties or because it is required by legislation. The procedure is private but, unlike mediation, the arbitrator's decision is binding and he is bound to conduct himself as a judge would in court.

ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents)
A body that regulates letting agents. Membership is voluntary; agents do not have to subscribe. The ARLA provides protection for both tenants and landlords.

Arrangement Fees
Fees payable to lenders for arranging a loan. They may be added to the loan or paid upon completion.

Assault
An unlawful attack on someone by words or deeds. Physical contact is not essential.

Assent
A document transferring land or buildings to a beneficiary of an estate. In Scotland, this is called a Docket on Confirmation.

Assets
Any description of property or rights other than land or an interest in land.

Attachment of earnings order
A court order obtained by a creditor to make a debtor's employer deduct and hand over to the creditor a proportion of the debtor's earnings to pay off the debt.

Attestation clause
The words at the end of a document, such as a deed or will, recording the formal verification of the document's execution by the witness or witnesses.

Attorney
A person who has the formal authority to act on behalf of someone else. Also used to describe any lawyer, especially in the US. See Power of Attorney.

Authorised share capital
The nominal value of the share capital of a company. It cannot issue shares to a greater value without a special resolution to increase it.

Barrister
A lawyer who has been called to the Bar and has the right to represent clients in court. As a general rule, barristers cannot take instructions direct from the public who must first instruct a solicitor. The full title is barrister-at-law, commonly referred to as Counsel.

Base rate
The interest rate set by the Bank of England. A committee now meets once a month to consider changes to the rate which then, in turn, affects the rates set by banks and building societies.

Battery
The deliberate use of unlawful force on somebody, ranging from just touching them to the use of physical violence. But such force may be lawful as, for instance, where it is authorised by agreement (medical treatment or sport) or in self defence.

Beneficial joint tenants
People who own property jointly in equal shares. If one dies, his share passes to the others by survivorship. In other words, no matter what his Will might say, his share will go to the surviving tenant(s). To avoid that result, a severance is necessary; see Severance of a joint tenancy.

Beneficial tenants in common
Persons who own property jointly but not necessarily in equal shares. If one dies his share passes to his heirs.

Beneficiary
A person entitled to all or part of an estate under a trust. Such trusts may arise under a settlement, a will or intestacy, an insurance policy and similar arrangements.

Bequeath
To leave money or property (other than land) to someone in a Will.

Bequest
A gift of money or property (other than land) in a Will. For land, see Devise.

Board
See Directors.

Board Meeting
A meeting of the directors of a company at which there is a quorum, i.e. the number of persons who are required by the Articles of Association to attend a meeting in order for it to be validly held.

Breach of contract
A failure by someone who has entered into a contract to perform its terms.

Breach of statutory duty
A failure to carry out duties or to fulfil obligations imposed by legislation.

Capacity
Competence to enter into a legal agreement. Minors and those of unsound mind generally lack capacity.

Cause of action
The legal justification for a claim. These fall into many categories; for instance, breach of contract, tort (which includes negligence, nuisance, assault and many others), and breach of statutory duty. Generally, a person must have suffered some loss or damage to justify a claim and it is the purpose of the law to give a remedy for that loss or da …

CGT (Capital Gains Tax)
A tax charged on profits from the disposal of assets, unless the disposal is in the course of trade when the profit will be taxed as income.

Chambers
A judge is said to 'sit in Chambers' when he is hearing a case in private, as opposed to open court. Almost all divorce proceedings are heard in this way. The word 'chambers' can also mean the offices in which barristers work and 'a set of Chambers' describes a group of barristers who have agreed to share certain facilities and services. Barristers …

Child
See Minor.

Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)
The rules, introduced in 1999, which govern the way that cases are conducted by the courts. Previously there were two sets of rules; the 'White Book' for the High Court and the 'Green Book' for the County Courts.

Claim Form
The first document prepared by a claimant and sent to the court to start an action. In the small claims court, it is a simple statement of the names of the claimant and defendant, the basis for the claim and the remedy the claimant is seeking.

Claimant, or plaintiff
Someone who makes a claim in court against a defendant for a remedy such as damages.

Clean break
A final settlement of financial and property matters between the parties to a marriage, so that neither party is dependant on the other. Virtually impossible if there are dependant children of a marriage.

CLFS (Community Legal Services Funding)
CLFS has replaced Legal Aid. It provides government funding for people who cannot afford legal fees but it is not available for most personal injury claims.

Co-respondent
The person with whom the respondent in a divorce case is alleged to have committed adultery.

Code of practice
Rules written by organisations or trade unions, which are used to make suggestions and guide behaviour. These rules do not have the force of law.

Codicil
A document that changes some parts of a Will but does not cancel it altogether.

Collective agreement
An agreement reached as a result of negotiations between an employer and a trade union.

Common
Common land is land which is either subject to rights of common or open waste land. Rights of common include a right to pasture, to fish (piscary), to cut turf (turbary) and to take wood (estovers) but they all share the characteristic that something is taken from the land. A town or village green is different in that it usually describes land over …

Common law
That part of English law that derives from ancient custom and judicial decisions. It is sometimes called the unwritten law because it is not codified like civil law but it is, of course, written down in many law reports. See also equity and statute law.

Complainant
Someone who lodges a complaint. See Claimant.

Compromise
An agreement between two or more persons to settle their differences without recourse to the court.

Conciliation
A method of settling a dispute with the aid of an independent person or body e.g. ACAS. Also see Mediation.

Conditional fee agreement (CFA)
A 'no-win-no-fee' agreement, as it is popularly called, is one by which a solicitor agrees that he will be paid for handling a case only if the client wins.

Confirmation
The Scottish equivalent of Probate.

Constructive dismissal
In order to establish that he has been constructively dismissed, an employee must show (a) that his employer has committed a serious (repudiatory) breach of the employment contract, (b) that he has left because of that breach and (c) that he has not waived the breach by, for example, delaying his resignation for too long. If he can do that, the con …

Contempt
Contempt of court is committed either by obstructing the administration of justice or by disobeying orders or other processes of the court. Suppose someone gives an undertaking to the court not to do something, like contact a particular person, and then breaks that undertaking; or a defendant goes on shouting in court when the judge orders him to s …

Continuing power of attorney
See Enduring power of attorney.

Contract
An agreement between two or more parties. It does not have to be in writing to be enforceable and can be oral or even implied from the parties' conduct. However, to be enforceable the parties must intend that their arrangements shall give rise to a legal relationship (unlike, say, accepting a social invitation) and must give some value, not necessa …

Contract for services
A contract engaging the services of an independent contractor. Contrast this with a service contract between an employer and employee.

Contributory negligence
The failure by a claimant to take reasonable care for his own safety when, if had done so, the injury of which he complains would not have happened or would have been less serious. If a claimant is found to have been partly to blame, his damages are likely to be reduced in proportion.

Conviction
The finding of a criminal court that the defendant is guilty, either when he is found guilty at trial or when he pleads guilty voluntarily.

Costs
The legal cost of litigation, including the fees of solicitors, barristers and expert witnesses and the court fees. Normally the loser is ordered to pay the winner's 'taxed' costs. That means that the winner's costs bill must be scrutinised and approved by a Taxing Master who is an officer of the court.

Court of Protection
A court that handles the property and affairs of people who, by reason of age or infirmity, are unable to look after them for themselves.

Covenant
An agreement, usually under seal, by which someone undertakes to do or not to do some specified thing. Examples occur in leases; in conveyances, where the seller covenants that he has good title and the purchaser may covenant not to build, etc.; and in employment agreements where an employee may covenant not to compete.

Creditor
Someone who is owed money by another. A secured creditor is one who has a Secured loan.

Criminal law, criminal courts
Offences against the public law for which a punishment may be imposed are covered by criminal law and are dealt with by the criminal courts. The rules of evidence and the standard of proof are stricter in the criminal courts as a safeguard against wrongful conviction. Some acts, such as an assault, may give rise to a prosecution but may also be the …

Cross petition (cross-action in Scotland)
A petition by a respondent in a divorce proceeding alleging different reasons for the divorce.

Cross-examination
Questioning a witness for the other side with the aim of extracting information or admissions helpful to one's own side. An advocate has a right to cross-examine but the judge may limit it if he feels the right is being abused.

Damages
A sum of money claimed or awarded as compensation for loss or injury. Generally damages will be awarded only for loss or injury that could reasonably have been foreseen. However, if the injury has been more severe because the sufferer has some unusual vulnerability, the defendant must pay for the actual consequences of his wrongdoing. Also see Exem …

DDA (Disability Discrimination Act 1995)
This Act bans discrimination against disabled people relating to employment and access to goods, facilities, services and premises.

Debtor
Someone who owes money to another person.

Decree absolute
The final order of a court dissolving a marriage.

Decree nisi
A provisional order dissolving a marriage, which does not become final until a further application is made by the petitioner (at least six weeks after the decree nisi) and a decree absolute is granted.

Defence
The legal case put forward by a defendant in answer to a claim.

Defendant
A person against whom a claim is made.

Delegate
To authorise someone else to exercise a power or right as one's deputy. As a general rule, the law does not allow a delegate to sub-delegate.

Deposit
a sum of money put up as security for the performance of some commitment, as at exchange of contracts for the purchase of a property. an interest earning bank account. colloquially, the cash sum needed from a purchaser of property to make a mortgage advance cover the purchase price.

Devise
A gift of land or other real property made in a Will. See Bequest.

Directions
Court orders laying down procedural steps to be taken by the parties.

Director
A member of the board that manages the affairs of a company. Directors must be appointed in accordance with the Articles of Association and details of their appointment must be filed at Companies House.

Disclaim
To renounce or give up one's right or claim to something.

Discrimination
Treating members of a group unfairly compared to the treatment of other people who are not members of that group.

Divorce
The ending of a marriage because it has irretrievably broken down. To establish irretrievable breakdown, it is necessary to prove one or more of the following (the Five Facts): -Adultery -Unreasonable behaviour -Desertion -Two-year separation with the consent of the other party (no fault) and/or -5-year separation when no consent is needed.

DSS
Department of Social Security; the government agency that is responsible for paying out benefits.

Easement
An entitlement to exercise some right over another's land, e.g. a right of way, a right of light or a right to support.

Elective resolution
A resolution passed by all the voting shareholders of a company opting out of certain administrative requirements. For instance, certain private companies may elect to dispense with the holding of an annual general meeting and/or with a formal audit.

Encumbrance
A right or interest over or in land possessed by someone other than the owner of the land, e.g. an easement, a lease or a mortgage.

Endowment mortgage
A mortgage arranged on the basis that the capital borrowed will be repaid from the proceeds of an Endowment policy.

Endowment policy
A policy of assurance on the life of a person which pays a sum assured on that person' death or, if earlier, on a date specified in the policy. A With Profits Endowment policy will pay Bonuses in addition to the sum assured and it is this type of policy that has often been used to secure repayment of personal mortgages; if the bonuses fall short of …

Enduring power of attorney
A formal, written authority granted by one person, the Donor, to another, the Attorney, enabling the Attorney to act on the Donor's behalf and manage his financial interests. If the power is drawn up in accordance with the Enduring Powers of Attorney Act 1985 and the Donor later becomes unable to manage his own affairs, the Attorney can register th …

Engrossment
The final signature copy of a document.

EPA, Equal Pay Act 1970
This Act requires that men and women be paid the same for doing the same or equal work.

Equity
The value remaining after all prior claims on an asset have been met. Hence the value of a house less the amount currently outstanding on the mortgage (known as the equity of redemption). Or the value of the shareholders' interest in a company. The system of law developed from the 16th century in the Court of Chancery alongside the Common law. The …

Estate
All the property belonging to a person at death.

Evidence
Information in the form of personal or documented testimony or the production of material objects, which is used to establish facts in a legal investigation. Statements which are shown to have been extracted under duress or which were made during without prejudice discussions will generally be inadmissible as evidence. Reported speech of an absent …