Legal Terminology that Everyone Should Understand

09 Jan

Lawyers are not the only people who should have an understanding of common legal terms. Anyone who hopes to advocate for themselves in a small dispute or wishes to perform their professional work with confidence may want to brush up on legal terminology. There are specific legal terms in every industry, from business to healthcare. Whether you’re signing an informed consent form or reading a contract for a new business venture it’s important to truly understand what you’re signing your name to.

There are words that carry entirely different meanings when used in law practice and it’s never a bad idea to brush up on a few. 

Act of God

This phrase appears often in contract laws. An Act of God is an unforeseen occurrence that cannot be protected against but interferes with the execution of a contract. Most often the phrase is used because of natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes and is used for insurance purposes.

Burden of Proof

The Burden of Proof is the obligation to prove an assertion. The burden of proof is almost always on the party that takes the case to court. In criminal cases the state carries the burden.


Before a trial begins a judge can give directions to the parties who are involved. Directions are a list of steps that the parties need to take, and includes a deadline. The steps usually entail filing different material and defining certain issues.


A subpoena does not mean the person receiving it is in trouble, it is an order to appear in court. Most often a person is subpoenaed to testify on the behalf of one of the involved parties.

First Instance

A first instance is a proceeding that is heard in the Court’s original jurisdiction.

Full Court

Full Court is when three or more judges sit together to hear a proceeding.


Common-Law is based on past court decisions and customs rather than laws created by Parliament.

A mention is when a case appears in court briefly to handle procedural matters. This is not the same thing as the hearing. A mention usually includes deciding bail and setting dates and witnesses are not required to attend.

A quash happens when a higher court sets aside the decision made by a lower court. This can include wrongful convictions.

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