Legal jargon explained

Legal Jargon Explained

Legalese can sometimes feel like a different language. The law is complex, which means lawyers use specific and highly technical language to talk about different aspects of law and legal procedures. Here’s a quick guide to the most common ones you’ll hear lawyers say.

Accused
A person accused of committing a criminal offence (also known as a defendant).

Adjournment
A break in court proceedings that can extend for hours, days, weeks, or months.

Allegation
Something one party says about another that is yet to be proven in court.

Appeal
When one party appeals the decision of one court in a higher court.

Arbitration
An alternative to court that sees parties sit down with an independent arbitrator, who will make a binding decision to end the matter. This is generally much cheaper and faster than litigation.

Barrister
A lawyer who specialises in advocacy and presents cases in front of judges and juries.

Civil
A type of dispute that occurs between private parties, such as individuals or businesses.

Commercial
Anything that relates to the course of doing business, such as contracts for goods or services.

Compensation
An amount of money paid to a person who has suffered an injury or loss relating to the case.

Crime
An act (or failure of act) which is punishable under the law, usually by a fine or imprisonment.

Damages
A type of compensation for damage suffered, such as an injury or property damage.

Discovery
A process in civil matters in which each party must disclose relevant documents to the other.

District Court
The middle of three courts in NSW that deals with claims up to $750,000 and criminal appeals.

Defence
The argument put together in criminal cases to ensure the defendant is given a fair trial.

Defendant
The person accused of committing a crime in criminal matters.

Hearing
The part of a case that involves going to court, presenting evidence, and making arguments.

Judgement
This is the final decision made in a case and is handed down by a judge.

Litigation
Litigation refers to the process of going to court to resolve a dispute between two parties.

Local Court
This the lowest court in NSW. It deals with small civil matters and 95 per cent of criminal cases.

Mediation
An alternative to court in which parties sit down with a mediator, who will help parties negotiate and reach an agreement. Like arbitration, this is much cheaper and faster than litigation.

Parties
This refers to the people involved in the dispute, whether they are individuals or businesses.

Plaintiff
The person who makes the complaint that starts a civil proceeding.

Proceeding
The procedure of moving a matter through court, whether in a civil or criminal jurisdiction.

Prosecution
The lawyers who represent the state in a criminal matter and bring a case against a defendant.

Respondent
The person who responds to the complaint made in a civil proceeding.

Solicitor
A lawyer who specialises in researching law, giving advice, and preparing documentation.

Supreme Court
The highest court in NSW, which hears major criminal cases, major civil cases, and appeals.

Trial
The culmination of a criminal case, where the prosecution puts the defence on trial in court.

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