Glossary of Key Legal Terminology

The law and the terms used can be complicated to those who are unfamiliar with legal jargon. This A-Z guide of common legal terms and phrases provides definitions of key legal terms that solicitors and their clients will come across in litigation in England and Wales.

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Ab initio – the start of something (Latin phrase).

Abatement – the cancellation of a writ or action; stopping a nuisance or proportionately reducing payments to creditors or bequests in a will in there is not enough money to pay.

Abscond – the failure of a person to present themselves at court when required e.g. where an individual has been released on bail and not returned to court.

Absolute Privilege a complete defence to an action for defamation.

Abuse of Law – unfair or improper legal action that has been initiated with selfish or malicious intentions. The abuse of law can originate from nearly any part of the legal system and may include careless or corrupt attorneys, abuses by law enforcement or misconduct from the judiciary.

Accord and Satisfaction – a legal contract where two parties will agree to discharge a tort claim, contract or liability for an amount base that differs from the original amount of that claim. It may also be used to settle claims before they come to court.

Acknowledgement of service – when a defendant agrees that a writ or claim form has been received.

Acquit – where the Court finds someone not guilty for a crime which they were accused.

Acquiescence – a common law that states if a person knowingly permits their civil rights to be infringed they cannot later make a claim against the person that infringed them. An example of this could be if a party has taken no action to start a claim for a significant amount of time this could lead to the other party believing that they have consented to the infringement.

Actus Reus  the “guilty act”, the action or conduct of an individual which is an essential element of a crime (Latin phrase).

Ad idem  in agreement (Latin phrase).

Adjourn  the postponement of a court hearing.

Administrator – the person who is appointed to manage the affairs of a bankruptcy, or to manage the estate of someone who has died without leaving a will. 

Administration order – An order made in a county court to arrange and administer the payment of debts by an individual; or an order made by a court in respect of a company that appoints an administrator to take control of the company. A company can also be put into administration if a floating charge holder, or the directors or the company itself file the requisite notice at court.

Administrative receiver – The person appointed by the holder of a floating charge debenture over a company’s assets to collect in and realise the assets of that company and to repay the indebtedness to the debenture holder.

Administrative receivership – The process where an insolvency practitioner is appointed by a debenture holder (lender) to realise a company’s assets and pay preferential creditors and the debenture holder’s debt. The right of a debenture holder to appoint an administrative receiver has been restricted by the Enterprise Act 2002.

Administrator – An Insolvency Practitioner (IP) appointed by the court under an administration order or by a floating charge holder or by the company or its directors filing the requisite notice at court.

Advocate – a lawyer who speaks in court on behalf of their client.

Affidavit  a sworn statement of truth.

Agent  someone who acts on behalf of another.

Agreement  where a consensus is reached between parties.

Aid and Abet – to assist someone or encourage someone to commit a crime.

Allege – to claim a fact is true without or before proof is given.

Alternative Business Structures  brought into being by the Legal Services Act 2007 these arefirms which are managed or owned by a mixture of lawyers and non-lawyers

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – an umbrella term for alternative ways (other than litigation) to resolve dispute. ADR includes: negotiation, arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation, adjudication and expert determination.

Annulment – a term used mostly in bankruptcy proceedings, relating to the cancellation of a bankruptcy which puts the bankrupt into the same position they would have been in had the bankruptcy order never have been made.

Appeal  requesting a court to overturn a lower court’s decision

Appellant – the person who is appealing the court against a decision that the lower court has made. 

Application – a formal written request sent to court. 

Arbitration   a form of alternative dispute resolution whereby an independent referee can make a legally binding decision without the need of a court. This award can be challenged at court.

Arbitrator – an independent referee who can settle a dispute through alternative dispute resolution, without the need of a court.

Assets – used to define things which have some value which are owned by an individual or corporate personality. In insolvency, assets are anything that belongs to a debtor that may be used to pay his/her/its debts.

Asset Preservation Order – an order of the Court that prevents assets being disposed of or removed outside of the jurisdiction until a claim is resolved (AKA as a freezing order or Mareva injunction).

Assured shorthold tenancy  a tenancy agreement where the landlord has the right to take the property back at the end of the agreement

Authorised Investments – investments in which a trustee is permitted to invest trust money under an act of parliament. 


Bail – a payment, or promise of payment, which is made in order for an individual who is accused of a criminal act to be released from custody pending trial.

Bailiff – an officer of the court whose duty is to carry out court orders, such as taking debtors goods and selling them to get money to pay a debtor’s debt. A bailiff may also personally serve documents on people.

Bankrupt – Someone against whom a bankruptcy order has been made and who has not been discharged from bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy Restriction Order (BRO) – is a court order, which extends the period of time for which you have to follow certain restrictions. This can last up to 15 years and can restrict your financial affairs.

Bare trust – where the beneficiary of a trust has an immediate and absolute right to both the trust capital and income received by the same.

Barrister – a lawyer specialising in court room advocacy and litigation who will be regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

Beneficiary – a person or entity which derives profit or advantage from a legal instrument such as a trust, life insurance policy or will.

Bequest – a gift of money or personal property made in a will, other than land or real property.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt – the standard that must be met by the jury in a criminal trial to convict the defendant. The jury can only find the defendant guilty if they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bill of costs – an invoice given by a solicitor to their client which outlines disbursements, fees and any expenses paid.

Bill of Exchange – an unconditional offer from one person to another, which has been signed by the person giving it, which requires the person who it is addressed to, to pay a sum of money on demand or at a future time.

Bill of sale – a document which transfers the ownership of goods from one person to another. 

Bona fide – sincere, genuine or good faith (Latin phrase).

Bona vacantia – goods without an apparent owner.

Book value – the value of a fixed asset, such as a building or machine, as recorded by an organisation’s books. It is usually the amount paid for the asset less an amount for depreciation. 

Breach of contract – a contract is a legally binding agreement between private parties that creates mutual obligations. The contract is breached when either party breaks one of the terms that has been agreed. 

Breach of duty – the failing to carry out something which is required by law, or doing something that the law forbids. 

Break clause – a clause included in a contract that allows it to be ended. 

Burden of proof – a party’s duty to produce sufficient evidence to support their allegation or argument. 

Byelaws – these are local laws that are made by a local council or enabling power that require something to be done or not done in a specific area. They are accompanied by a sanction or penalty if they are not followed. 


Calderbank offer – a litigation settlement offer letter sent on a ‘without prejudice save as to costs’ basis. Calderbank offers are an alternative to a CPR Part 36 offer. Unlike Part 36 offers, the cost consequences are entirely in the Court’s discretion. Often tactically used for costs protection and in order to help negotiate a settlement and resolve a dispute.

Cancellation clause – a provision in contract that permits the termination of the contract by one of the parties before it’s expiration under specific terms and contracts.

Capital gain – the profit that is made when a long term asset is sold for more than its original cost. 

Case law – law that is based on the result of previous court cases. 

Caveat emptor – “let the buyer beware” a principle whereby the buyer assumes the risk that whatever they are purchasing may be defective and therefore places onus on them to perform due diligence first.

Charge – Security interest taken over property by a creditor to protect against non-payment of a debt (such as a mortgage).

Chattels personal – an item of property other than freehold land which is tangible and owned.

Chattels real – an item of property other than freehold land which is tangible and is leased.

Chit – a short note recording a sum owed.

Chose in action – Bundle of personal rights over a property which can only be claimed or enforced by action, and by not taking physical possession. An example of this could be a cash balance at a bank or money due on a bond. 

Civil Law – the law which covers disputes which are not criminal in nature.           

Claim – a legal demand given by a person seeking compensation for loss.

Claimant – the person making a claim.

Clause – a section, paragraph, phrase or segment in a legal document, for example, a contract, deed or will.

Cohabitation agreement – this allows unmarried couples who live together to enter into a legally binding contract regarding division of assets if the relationship breaks down.

Common law – a system of laws based on customs and court decisions made by judges rather than Acts of Parliament. Common law forms the basis of the legal system in the UK and is constantly changing.

Companies House – the office which stores information on all limited companies and limited liability partnerships registered in the United Kingdom, from annual accounts to the names of the directors.

Compulsory Liquidation – Winding up of a company after a petition to the court, usually by a creditor.

Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) – A voluntary agreement for a company is a procedure whereby a plan of reorganisation or composition in satisfaction of debts, is put forward to creditors and shareholders. There is limited involvement by the court and the scheme is under the control of a supervisor.

Compensation – money paid to make up for loss, damage, injury or suffering. 

Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) – Also known as a “no win no fee” agreement, is a contract between a client and legal representative which provides that all or past of the legal representative’s legal fees and/or disbursements is to be paid by the client only in specific circumstances – usually only if the client is successful in the case. A success fee will ordinarily also be agreed at the outset of any instruction.

Confidentiality – In practice this means that all client information, whether it be held on paper, digitally or by knowledge of the professional, must not be disclosed without the consent of the client.

Connected persons – Directors or shadow directors and their associates (including family members), and associates of the company. Connected persons has various definitions according to the particular act; for example, section 252 Companies Act 2006 defines connected persons in reference to their connection with a director of a company.

Consent Order – A judge approved order setting out terms that have been agreed between the parties. The agreement is legally binding and enforceable. 

Consequential Loss – (also known as indirect loss) arises from a special circumstance of the case, not in the usual course of things (which would be direct loss). Direct loss is the natural result of the breach in the usual course of things. Most foreseeable kinds of loss are direct, including financial losses such as loss of profits and loss of business or goodwill. Consequential loss is indirect loss and unless foreseeable likely to be unrecoverable. Generally, consequential loss is recoverable only if the party paying damages knew or should have known of that special circumstance when it made the contract. At law, this is due to the second limb of the rule in Hadley v Baxendale [1854] EWHC Exch J70. In summary, consequential losses should be considered as exceptional and often not recoverable in English law unless foreseeable by the paying party and therefore not too remote. The legal test of remoteness was established in Hadley v Baxendale (1854) EWHC 9 Exch 341 and sets out the following two limbs of loss: Limb 1: Direct losses – Losses which are fairly and reasonably in the contemplation of the parties when the contract was entered into. Limb 2: Indirect losses and consequential losses – Losses that require actual knowledge of special circumstances outside the ordinary course of things but that were communicated to the defendant or otherwise known by the parties.

Contempt of Court – When someone risks unfairly influencing a court case which may affect the ability to have a fair trial. Contempt of court may include disobeying or ignoring a court order, taking photos or shouting in court or refusing to answer the court’s question if called as a witness. 

Contract – an agreement between two or more parties which creates legal obligations for both to perform specific acts.

Conveyancing – the legal process of transferring legal title in property from one person to another.

Costs Law – the law regarding legal costs cases.

Costs Lawyers – a lawyer regulated by the Association of Costs Lawyers.

Counsel – another term which is used to describe a barrister.

Counterclaim – a claim made by the defendant that opposes the claimant’s claim. The counterclaim will be included in the same proceedings as the original claim. 

Creditor – Someone owed money by an individual or company.

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – the CPS prosecutes criminal cases investigated by the police.


Damages – monetary compensation to be paid to a claimant for loss caused by the wrongful act of another. Recovery of damages is the primary objective of most civil litigation in the UK.

Damages Based Agreement – an agreement between a firm and their client whereby the agreed fee is contingent upon the outcome of the case. In the instance of success, the fee is determined as a percentage of the compensation received by the client.

Debenture – this is a long term security which is issued by a company and secured against its asset in order to yield a fixed rate of interest.

Debt security – a term used to describe a financial instrument, such as a corporate bond, containing a promise by the issuer to pay the holder of the instrument  defined amount on or by a specific date, usually with interest. 

Decision – a form of secondary legislation produced by the European Union and is binding on whoever is addressed by it.

Declaratory Judgement – a judgement that defines the rights of the parties in question regarding the question presented. These judgements state whether the parties involved may seek relief rather than ordering parties to take any actions. 

Decree – another term for an order made by the court.

Deed – A written document with the required formality in which an interest, right or property passes or is confirmed. 

Defamation – the making of a false statement regarding an individual which has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation.

Default – failure to comply with something which is required by law.

Defendant – person to whom the claim is being made against. May also be referred to as the respondent.

Deferred sentence – Utilised in criminal proceedings when the final decision about punishment of the offender is put off to another date (ordinarily between 3-12 months later).

Defraud – to take something illegally from another person or to prevent someone from having something that is legally theirs by deceiving them. 

Derivative claim – A claim made by a shareholder or continued by a shareholder on behalf of the company in relation to the breach by a director. 

Dilatory tactic – where someone has intended to cause delay.

Directive – a form of secondary legislation that is produced by the European Union and is addressed to all member states.

Direct Loss – is the natural result of the breach in the usual course of things. Most foreseeable kinds of loss are direct, including financial losses such as loss of profits and loss of business or goodwill.

Disbursement – fees that are paid to someone else (other than your solicitor) for fees that are connected with your legal matter e.g. counsel’s fees, court fees, photocopying and other administrative charges.

Disclosure – this relates to the making available of relevant documents which you believe to be in the possession of the other party.

Discovery – part of the pre-action protocol in civil proceedings where one party reveals relevant documents to the other side allowing them to inspect them.

Discrimination – usually used in employment law in workplace discrimination claims to describe the act of being treated unfairly or differently because of certain legally protected characteristics (in the Equality Act 2010). 

Disqualification – A procedure whereby a person has a court order made against them or gives an undertaking to the Secretary of State which makes it an offence for that person to be involved in the management or directorship of a company for the period specified in the order (unless leave has been granted by the court).

Document of title – a legal document that proves that someone owns property or goods or has the right to take control of it or them.

Doctrine – a rule or principle of the law.

Domicile – the principal home of a person.


Ejectment – a lawsuit to remove a party occupying a real property. Different to eviction ejectment applies to someone trying to gain title to the property. 

Elder law – a speciality in legal practice that covers estate planning, wills, trusts, arrangements for care, social security and retirement benefits.

Emancipation – freeing a minor from the control of parents and allowing them to live his/her life under her own control. Emancipation may end the parent’s responsibility due to debts, negligence or criminal acts.

Embezzlement – the crime of stealing funds or property of an employer, company or Government.

Employment – the hiring of a person for compensation.  

Enacting words – the introductory words of an Act of Parliament that give it the force of law.   

Encroachment – building a structure which is in partially or wholly on a neighbour’s property.

Encumbrance – general term for a claim of real property 

Endorsement – the act of the payee or owner signing his/her name to a negotiable instrument i.e. a bill or check. 

Entity – term for any institution, company, partnership, government agency or any organisation that is distinguished from other individuals. 

Entry of judgment – the placement of judgement in on the official roll of judgments.

Ernest Payment – a deposit that is paid to show a commitment with the remainder of the sum due to be paid at a later date. If the final sum is not paid then the Ernest payment is kept by the recipient as pre-determined.

Escalator clause – a provision in a lease or other agreement in which payments will increase from time to time when the living index goes up. 

Escape clause – a provision in a contract allowing one of the partied to be relieved of obligation in the occurrence of a certain event. 

Escrow – an agreement between two people or organisations in which money or property is kept by a third person or organisation until a particular condition has been met. 

Estate – Used predominately in wills and probate law to describe the net worth of an individual including all property, possessions, financial securities and money.

Evasion of tax – to intentionally avoid paying taxes through fraudulent mean.

Eviction – the act of expelling someone from a property.

Evidence – proof that is legally presented at trial with the intention to convince a judge or jury of alleged facts in relation to the case. Examples can include the testimony of a witness, documents, public records or photographs. 

Exception – a formal objection during trial to the ruling of a judge.

Exclusionary rule – the rule that evidence secured in illegal means cannot be used in a criminal trial 

Executor – A term used in probate to describe a person named in a will that acts as a trustee of the deceased’s estate and ensures the directions of the will are carried out.

Excise tax – a legislated tax on specific goods or services at purchase. These are indirect taxes that damage consumer health or pollute the environment. The increase in price is used to discourage the consumption or waste of the products concerned. 

Excusable neglect – a legitimate excuse as to why a party or their lawyer may have failed to take the required action on time. Excuses which the court often accept include illness, press of business by the lawyer or simply an oversight from a lawyer’s staff. 

Exemplary damages – damages that are awarded in excess of the claimant’s loss. These damages are awarded with the intent to punish the defendant rather than compensate the claimant and will only be awarded in limited circumstances. 

Exhibit – a document or object that may be used as evidence during a trial, this evidence is subject to objections by an opposing attorney. 

Expert Witness – a person who is a specialist in a subject and may give their expert opinion on the matter without being a witness to any occurrence in the actual lawsuit. The judge has the discretion on whether to qualify whether he/she is an expert or not. 

Extortionate Credit Transaction – An extortionate credit transaction is a transaction by which credit is provided on terms that are exorbitant or grossly unfair compared with the risk accepted by the creditor. Such a transaction may be challenged by an administrator, a liquidator or a trustee in bankruptcy.


Face amount – the original amount due prior to adding the calculation of interest. 

Fair market value – the value at which a property would sell at if it were put on the open market, real estate appraisers will use.

Fair trade laws – laws which permit manufacturers to set a minimum price at which their product is sold for. 

False imprisonment – where a person is restrained by another person who does not have the legal right to. False imprisonment may become a kidnapping if the victim is restrained for a significant amount of time.  

False pretences – the crime of knowingly making untrue statements for the purpose of obtaining money or property fraudulently. 

Family Division – sector of the high court that specifically deals with marriage, divorce and probate. 

Felony – old term used used to describe serious crimes i.e. rape or murder. This term is still used in the U.S.

Feu – a lease that lasts forever. 

Fixed Charge – A charge held over specific assets. The debtor cannot sell the assets without the consent of the secured creditor or repaying the amount secured by the charge.

Fixed asset – assets that are purchased for long term use and not likely to be converted into cash quickly. Examples of these assets could include land or buildings.

Floating Charge – A charge held over general assets of a company. The assets may change (such as stock) and the company can use the assets without the consent of the secured creditor until the charge “crystallises” (becomes fixed). Crystallisation occurs on the appointment of an administrative receiver, on the presentation of a winding-up petition or as otherwise provided for in the document creating the charge.

Force majeure – an event that cannot be controlled and will stop duties under an agreement from being carried out.

Foreclosure – the repossessing of a property when the mortgagor has failed to keep up with mortgage repayments. If the debt is not repaid then the property may be repossessed.

Forfeiture – when the tenant has not met the conditions of tenancy agreement therefore losing the possession of the property. 

Forward Contract – an agreement between two parties to buy or sell an asset as a specific price on a predefined expiry date. The contract can vary between different trades making it a non-standard entity. Forward contracts are most commonly used for trading commodity markets. 

Franchise – a licensing contract that allows a business to give the right to a third party to operate using their trade-name. This may be through manufacturing, distribution or sales. 

Fraud – lying or deceiving to either make a profit or gain an advantage, or cause someone else to suffer a disadvantage. 

Fraudulent conveyance – the transfer of land ownership with the intention of defrauding someone

Fraudulent preference – someone who is insolvent paying one of their creditors whilst being aware they do not have enough money to pay other creditors.

Fraudulent Trading – Where a company has carried on business with intent to defraud creditors, or for any fraudulent purpose. It is a criminal offence and those involved can be made personally liable for the company’s liabilities.

Free of encumbrances – no one else having any rights over something. If one person owns a property and no other person has any rights over it then it is owned free of encumbrances. 

Freehold – the description of an areas of land that only the owner has any legal rights over. 

Frustration – the stopping of a contract. A contract may not be carried out because something make’s the contract impossible this is called the frustration of a contract.

Funded debt – this may also be known as a long-term debt. This is a debt in the form of securities, such as loans or bonds, with long-term or indefinite redemption. 

Futures contact – binding contract to buy or sell something in the future at a fixed price .


Garnishee order – a court order to a third party who owes money to a judgement creditor

General damages – these are dames that a court will give compensation for without the need for specific proof that that damage was done to the claimant. 

Going concern – Basis on which insolvency practitioners prefer to sell a business. Effectively it means the business continues, jobs are saved, and a higher price is obtained.

Grant – proof that you are entitled to deal with a person’s estate who has dies. The grant is used by the probate registry. 

Grant of probate – a certificate that proves the executors of the will are entitled to deal with the estate. Forms as well as the death certificate and will, will be sent to the Probate Registry which will then in turn be examined by the registrar and once satisfied a grant of probate will be issued. 

Grassum – A sum of money that is paid when first taking up a lease in addition to the required rent payment. 

Grievous bodily harm – intentionally causing serious physical harm to another person.

Guarantee – An agreement to pay a debt owed by a third party. It must be evidenced in writing for it to be enforceable.

Guarantee company – a company whose members only have to pay the amount they have agreed to contribute of the company is wound up and do not have to pay any extra money if they do not have sufficient funds to pay the company’s debt 

Guarantor – a person or organisation that promises to pay a debt that is owed by the second person if the second person fails to repay it

Guardian – someone who is appointed to a child or someone incapable formally to look after their interests.

Guilty – a courts verdict that someone is to be charged with the crime they committed. 


Harassment of Debtors – the act of attempting to collect debt by threatening or distressing a debtor.

Harassment of occupiers – if a landlord uses threat, violence or interfering with the tenants enjoyment of the property in an attempt to repossess the property.

Hard law – legal obligations that are binding on the parties who are involved and can be legally enforced by court.

Hearsay evidence – evidence that is given in court of something said to the witness by another person 

HM Customs and Excise – the government department that is responsible for administering value added tax, customs and excise duties

HM Land Registry – a registry in offices and towns in the UK that keeps record of registered land. 

Holding company – a company which controls another company usually due to owning more than half its shares.

Hostile witness – a witness who either refuses to testify in support of the people who called them; or testifies in a way that differs from their previous statement

House of Lords – the highest court in the UK


Imputed notice – a legal presumption that a party has notice when it can discover certain facts by due diligence into public records.

Incorporated Company – a private company with shares which are not publically traded. Incorporation limits the liability of the shareholders as the company is a separate legal entity.

Indemnity – security against a loss.

Indemnity Insurance – also known as professional indemnity insurance this provides cover for the legal costs and expenses in defending a claim against you for inadequate advice.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) – A voluntary arrangement for an individual is a procedure whereby the person comes to an arrangement with his creditors in how their debt will be discharged. Such a scheme requires the approval of the court and is under the control of a supervisor.

Inheritance – part of an estate which is transferred on death usually to a family member.

Injunction – an order made by the court requiring someone to do something or not do something.

Insolvency Act 1986 (IA 1986) – Primary legislation governing insolvency law and practice. Nevertheless, many other statues and statutory instruments are also relevant.

Insolvency Practitioner – An authorised person who specialises in insolvency, usually an accountant or solicitor. They are authorised either by the Secretary of State or by one of a number of recognised professional bodies.

Insolvent – where you are unable to pay pay debts when they fall due or where liabilities exceed assets.

Insolvency Rules (IA 1986) – The Insolvency Rules 1986 (as amended) these Rules apply where the Act applies. Where the old Act continue to apply so do the Bankruptcy Rules 1952 and the Companies (Winding Up) Rules 1949. There are separate rules dealing with insolvent partnerships, insolvent deceased’s estates and deeds of arrangement.

Insolvent – The state of not being able to pay one’s debts as they fall due or having an excess of liabilities over assets.

Insolvent Liquidation – A company goes into insolvent liquidation if it goes into liquidation at a time when assets are insufficient for the payment of its debts and other liabilities and the expenses of liquidation.

Intangible Property -­ non-tangible property such as intellectual property rights.

Intellectual Property – your intangible property, such as inventions, which are protectable via copyrights, patents, design rights and trademarks.  

Inter Alia – a Latin term for among other things.

Interest – a legal claim, or right to use property.

Interim Injunction–  an injunction which is made prior to a civil case coming to trial

Interim Order – An individual who intends to propose a voluntary arrangement to his creditors may apply to the court for an interim order which, if granted, precludes bankruptcy and other legal proceedings whilst the order is in force.

Interim proceeding – any hearing which occurs between the first and final hearing would be considered interim.

Interlocutory Judgment – a provisional judgement.

Intervention – where a Government body takes over a company acting in the publics best interest.

Intestate – where an individual dies without leaving a will.

Issued share capital – the total amount of shares which are issued by a company and held by shareholders.


Joint and several Liability – where two or more parties are equally liable for an agreed obligation. Their liability for breach of the obligation can be therefore enforced against them all or any one of them individually.  

Joint tenancy – a tenancy which is equally divided between two or more parties.

Joint venture – a commercial undertaking between parties which retain their individual identities.

Joint will – a will which comprises of two or more individuals estates.

Judge – the individual who presides over court proceedings and adjudicate them.

Judgment – Is the decision given by a court at the conclusion of a trial.

Judgment creditor ­– the individual who is owed money after obtaining a judgment at court in their favour.

Judgment debtor – the individual who owes money as per the judgment of the court.

Judgment in default – a judgment made by the court without trial, where the defendant has failed to either file an acknowledgement of service or file a defence by a certain date.

Junior barrister ­– any barrister that is not part of the Queen’s Counsel.

Jurisdiction ­– the territorial limits which a court has power to make an order.

Jury ­– a sworn body, usually of 12 people, that review evidence during a trial and attempt to come to an impartial decision (the verdict).


Land Registry – a statutory body whose role is to maintain registers of certain legal estates in land and was established under the Land Registration Act 1925.

Law of Property Act 1925 (LPA 1925) – Governs transactions in law and property. Contains statutory powers of receivers appointed under a fixed charge.

Law Society – the professional body for solicitors in England and Wales.

Lawyer – a professional who is authorised to carry on legal activities by the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Leasehold – property which is held exclusively by a tenant for a given period of time in return for rent.

Legacy – gift left to an individual via a will. Land cannot be a legacy.

Liable – where an individual is legally responsible for something.

Libel – a defamatory statement made in a permanent form such as a newspaper article.

Licence – authority given which allows the holder to do something which would otherwise be unlawful.

Lien – Right to retain possession of assets or documents until settlement of a debt.

Limitation Period  – as dictated by the Limitation Act 1980 these are the statutory rules which limit the period in which a civil claim may be commenced.

Limited Liability Partnership – this is a partnership where all or some of the partners have limited liability.  

Liquidation – Applies to companies or partnerships. It involves the realisation and distribution of the assets and usually the closing down of the business. There are three types of liquidation – compulsory, creditors’ voluntary and members’ voluntary.

Liquidation Committee – Committee of creditors who receive information from the liquidator and sanction some of his actions.

Liquidator – The Official Receiver or an insolvency practitioner appointed to administer the liquidation of a company or partnership.

Litigant – the individual who is party to a court action.

Litigant in person – an individual who represents themselves during the course of court proceedings.

Litigation – the commencement of legal action through the courts.

Loan capital – money raised by an organisation.

LPA Receiver – Law of Property Act 1925 receiver: a person (not necessarily an insolvency practitioner) appointed to take charge of a mortgaged property by a lender whose loan is in default, usually with a view to sale or to collect rental income for the lender. Common in the case of failure of a property developer, whose borrowings will largely be secured on specific properties.


Magistrate – a justice of the peace who sits in the magistrates’ court who usually is a non-legal volunteer. They preside over minor cases.

Magistrates Court – the lowest court in England and Wales which generally deals with minor criminal cases.

Malfeasance – an unlawful act.

Mediation – a form of alternative dispute resolution in which an independent third party assists the parties to resolve their dispute without going to court.

Member (of a company) – A person who has agreed to be, and is registered as, a member, such as a shareholder of a limited company.

Middle Temple – dating back to the 14th Century it is one of the four Inns of Court.

Misconduct – the breach of a relevant principle by a profession in their field.

Misfeasance – Breach of duty in relation to the funds or property of a company by its directors or managers.

Misrepresentation – an untrue statement made by one party to the other which induces them into a contract.

Money Laundering – the practice of concealing the source of funds obtained illegally.

Mortgage – A transfer of an interest in land or other property by way of security, redeemable upon performing the condition of paying a given sum of money.

Mens rea – ‘guilty mind’ the state of mind that a defendant must have had at the time of committing a crime in order to be convicted of the same.


National Debt– is the total amount the government owes to its creditors.

Negligence– is failure to take reasonable care to avoid loss or injury to another person.

Negotiable Instrument– is a document that guarantees specific payment of a sum of money, either a set demand or a set time from the debtor. 

Next of kin– is to address a person’s closest relative or relatives.

Nominee – An IP who carries out the preparatory work for a voluntary arrangement, before its implementation.

Nondisclosure – the failure for a party to disclose a fact to the other side that could influence their decision.

Notary – a person who is authorised to certify documents, often this is a solicitor. Documents such as affidavits need to be certified. 

Noting a bill– Is where a bill (draft or promissory) has been submitted for acceptance or payment and a note to that effect has been dishonoured. 

Notice to admit – A CPR Part 44 request served by a litigant to pressure the opponent to admit particular facts. A notice to admit facts may be served pre-action but is more usual once litigation has commenced. A party cannot be forced to reply save by an order of the Court however an unreasonable refusal to reply may result in costs penalties.

Notice of hearing – a written notice informing the parties of the date, time and place that a scheduled hearing will take place.

Notice to quit– A document from a landlord to a tenant informing them to leave the rental premises.

Notice to treat– Is a notice that is served by authority on a land owner wanting to obtain land by an agreement.

Novation– Is the substitute of an old contract to a new contract in place.

Nuisance– Is an act that is offensive or harmful to others and gives rise to a cause of action.


Oath – an pronouncement of the truth of a statement or promise.  

Obiter – a non-essential opinion which forms part of a Judge’s written judgement and does not become legal precedent.

Obligation – the requirement, usually by contract, to perform a particular action.

Offer – a promise or willingness to do something or refrain from doing something. Once accepted this becomes legally binding contract.  

Offeree – the individual who is the recipient of the legally binding offer.

Offeror – the individual who makes the legally binding offer.

Officer (of a company) – A director, manager or secretary of a company.

Official Receiver – An officer of the court and civil servant employed by The Insolvency Service, who deals with bankruptcies and compulsory company liquidations.

Omission – a failure to carry out specified acts where there was a duty to perform said act.

Onerous Property – The term onerous property in the context of a liquidation or bankruptcy, applies to unprofitable contracts and to property that is unsaleable or not easily saleable or that might give rise to a continuing liability. Such property can be disclaimed by a liquidator or a trustee in bankruptcy.

Order – the instruction or command of the court.

Ordinary Resolution – a decision made by a company by simple majority (i.e. by more than 50%) of the company members.

Out-of-court settlement – an agreement between parties which is made privately prior to the court’s decision.

Overriding Objective –the Civil Procedure Rules are a new procedural code with the overriding objective of enabling the court to deal with cases justly and at proportionate cost.  


PACE – Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

Pari passu – the Latin phrase for equal footing.

Part 36 Offer– An offer to settle all or part of a claim which complies with the requirements in Part 36 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). Either party making a Part 36 offer provides a means of putting pressure on the other side to settle a case and of protecting a party’s position on costs.

Party – a participant of a lawsuit or other legal proceeding. 

Passing Off – a misrepresentation that goods or services offered are those supplied by another.

Patent – the exclusive right which is granted over an invention.

Penalty – a clause in a contract that operates when the contract is breached to compensate or protect the innocent party.

Perjury – an offence for giving false evidence or evidence which you do not believe to be true.

Personal guarantee – a pledge by an individual to a bank to repay debt owed to the bank if the bank’s customer fails to pay the debt. 

Petition – A formal application made to a court.

Policyholders Protection Act 1975 – An act which established Policyholders Protection Board to provide compensation to the public in the event of the liquidation of an insurance company. The Board will make payment in full of liabilities under certain policies of compulsory insurance and 90 per cent of liability to provide policyholders under other general and investment type policies. Compensation is restricted to individual policyholders or partnerships; corporate policyholders are not protected.

Preference – A payment or other transaction in the six month to two year period preceding a liquidation, administration or bankruptcy, which places a creditor or a person connected with the insolvent, respectively, in a better position than they would have been otherwise. A liquidator, administrator or trustee in bankruptcy may recover any sums which are found to be preferences.

Preferential Creditor – A creditor who is entitled to receive certain payments in priority to floating charge holders and other unsecured creditors. These creditors include occupational pension schemes and employees.

Prima facie – a Latin phrase for on the face of it.

Proof of Debt – A statutory form completed by a creditor in a compulsory liquidation to state how much is claimed. The form is supplied by the Liquidator.

Proxy – Instead of attending a meeting, a person can appoint someone to go and vote in their place.

Personal injury– is when injury is caused to a person

Personal property
– is all property except land.

Personal Representative– Is  a person who is appointed to deal with a dead person’s estate.

Personalty– is another word for personal property.

Per stirpes–  that describes a property divided equally between the offspring. 

Perverting the course of justice – is when doing something to interfere with the justice system.

Plea – The defendant’s answer to the accusations. 

Plea bargain–  is when the defendant pleads guilty instead of not guilty in return for a concession by the prosecution. 

Plead – is to declare to the court whether you are guilty or not guilty. 

Pledge– is letting someone take possession of goods but the ownership does not change.

Plenipotentiary–  is someone who has been given complete authority to act

Poaching–  is taking game from someone else’s land without permission. 

Possess– is  to have property under your control. 

Power of appointment–  a person giving a second person the power to dispose of the first person’s property.

Power of attorney– is  a document which gives power to the person appointed by it to act for the person who signed the document.

Property– is the name for anything which can be owned.

Prosecution– is  bringing proceedings against someone else.

Prospectus–  is a formal document giving details of a company’s past performance and future plans.

Protected tenancy–  is a tenancy agreement for a house.

Proviso– is  a clause in a legal document which qualifies another section of the agreement.


Quantum – the value of the claim.

Quantum meruit – Latin for “as much as has been earned” – the equitable remedy in a claim to recover a reasonable sum in respect of services supplied to the defendant equivalent to the amount he deserves or has earned

Quantum valebat – Latin for “as much as its worth” – the equitable remedy in a claim for a reasonable price for goods supplied to the defendant equivalent to the amount the goods are worth

Quash – to invalidate or set aside a conviction

Queen’s Bench – Is a division part of the High Court. Its main function is to deal
with civil cases.

Queen’s Counsel (QC)– is a barrister who has been chosen by the Lord Chancellor to serve as counsel to the Crown.

Queen’s evidence – is evidence for the prosecution given by someone who
is also accused of the crime being tried.

Quiet enjoyment- is allowing a tenant to use land without interference.

Quiet possession– is using property without interference. When property is
sold the buyer should be able to use the property free from interference by the seller.


Ratio decidendi the reasons or principles of law on which the court reaches its decision

Realise – Realising an asset means selling it or disposing of it to raise money, for example to sell an insolvent’s assets and obtain the proceeds.

Receiver – The commonly used name for an administrative receiver. The term can also mean a person appointed by the court or with the power to receive the rents and profits of property. Receivers who are not administrative receivers do not need to be insolvency practitioners.

Receivership – A company in administrative receivership is often said to be “in receivership”.

Rescission – A procedure that cancels a winding-up order.

Release – The process by which the Official Receiver or an insolvency practitioner is discharged from the liabilities of office as trustee/liquidator or administrator.

Remedy/redress– when a court or other applicable body grants protection, recovery or enforcement of rights or recovery of damages.

Remote hearing – A hearing that is held without the people involved coming to court in person. Instead those involved will attend the hearing by telephone or video link.

Reply a statement of case filed and served in response to the Defence.

Request for further information – a written request under Part 18 of the Civil Procedure Rules seeking clarification or further information in relation to matter in dispute in the claim.

Requisition– an application to the Land Registry or a local authority for a certificate of official search to reveal whether or not land is affected by encumbrances

Rescission – the setting aside of a voidable contract which is treated as if it never existed

Reservation of Title or Retention of Title Agreement (Romalpa) – An agreement for the sale of goods to a company, being an agreement;
(a) which does not constitute a charge on the goods, but
(b) under which, if the seller is not paid and the company is wound up, the seller will have priority over all other creditors of the company in respect to the goods or any property representing the goods.

Restitution the return of property to the owner or person entitled to possession, particularly where an individual or entity has been unjustly enriched and unjustifiably received the property where the goods have been transferred under duress, mistake, fraud or illegality.

Restriction – a limitation of the right of a registered proprietor to deal with the land or charge in registered title.

Restrictive covenant (employment)– a restriction set out in an employment contract preventing the employee from taking certain steps post-employment e.g. working for a competing business

Restrictive covenant (property) an obligation set out in a deed that curtails the rights of an owner of land.

Residuary legacy– it is the remainder of what is to be given out from an estate after all debts, taxes and specific legacies have been paid. 

Residue– is what is left of an estate after all debts, taxes, expenses and specific legacies have been dealt with. 

Resisting arrest– is when a person trying to prevent the police arresting him or her. 

Resolution– is a decision taken by the members of a company in a meeting. 

Respondent– is the person an action is being taken against. 

Restraining order–  is an order which a court may issue to prevent a person from doing a particular thing. 

Restriction– is placed on a piece of land the owner cannot sell or mortgage the land.

Restriction order– is an order by the Crown Court that prevents a person being discharged from hospital, to protect the public. 

Restrictive covenant– is  a deed which restricts how a piece of land can be used. 

Retainer– is a payment to a barrister to act in a case.


Secured Creditor – A creditor who holds security, such as a mortgage, over a person’s assets for money owed. A secured creditor is likely to be paid first.

Security – A charge or mortgage over assets taken to secure payment of a debt. If the debt is not paid, the lender has a right to sell the charged assets. Security documents can be very complex. The commonest example is a mortgage over a property.

Security for costs – a sum payable into court by a claimant in civil proceedings as a condition of being permitted to continue with the claim. A court will order the same where (i) the claimant is ordinarily resident outside of the jurisdiction; (ii) the claimant is suing on behalf of someone who will be unable to pay the defendant’s costs if ordered to do so; (iii) the claimant’s address has not provided a correct address or has changed his address during the litigation.

Security of tenure – protection from a landlord that is attempting to obtain possession of the property that a tenant is renting.

Service – key documents in litigation such as the Claim Form, Statements of Case are required to be served on the opponent in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules. 

Set aside – a court order voiding or cancelling another order or judgment

Settlement – where the parties agree between themselves or with the use of a mediator, to resolve the claim prior to commencing litigation or without going to trial.

Shadow Director – A person who, without being formally appointed, gives instructions on which the directors of a company are accustomed to act.

Share capital – the money that is invested directly in a company by its members

Statement of Affairs – A document sworn under oath, completed by a bankrupt, company officer or director(s), stating the assets and giving details of debts and creditors.

Statement of Case – documents filed and served in litigation which set out the ambit of the claim which include the Particulars of Claim, the Defence (and Counterclaim), Reply and witness statements. 

Statement of Truth – the CPR requires that some documents are verified by a statement of truth such as the claim form.  This means that the person must sign it stating that they believe the contents to be true.

Statute of limitation – a law which sets out the time limits within which a court action must take place.

Statutory Demand – A formal notice requiring payment of a debt exceeding £750 within 21 days, in default of which bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings may be commenced without further notice.

Statutory declaration – a formal statement in a prescribed form affirming that something is true to the best knowledge of the person making the declaration.

Stay of execution – an order suspending the execution of an order of the court or judgment

Stay of proceedings – an order pausing civil legal proceedings

Stock drop claim – a type of claim brought by shareholders pursuant to section 90 and/or section 90A of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 when their shares in a company lose value because of some wrongdoing by that company becoming publicly known

Summary judgment  – a party can apply to the Court for an order dismissing a claim summarily and based on the allegation that there is no claim or defence with a reasonable prospect of success.

Superior courts – the higher courts in English law. These include the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Crown Court and the House of Lords. 

Supreme Court – the Highest court below the House of Lords.


Tax–  Is the amount of money that you need to pay the government so the government can pay for public services.

Taxable year-  is a 12 month period where tax return covers.

Tax Base–  Is the complete amount of assets or income that can be taxed for by the government or taxing authority.

Tax Credit– Is the sum of the amount of money that taxpayers can subtract from taxes that is owed to the government from them.

Tax Tribunal– Is a two tier system of the First Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal that deals with UK tax appeals.

Tenancy-  is when a tenant has control of land for a period of time 

Third Party-  an individual or group that does not have direct connection with the two parties for example in a deal or contract but who might be still affected by it.

Tort – a wrongful act or omission, other than a breach of contract, for which damages can be awarded in a civil court by the person who has been wronged.

Trainee Solicitor- is a person who is training to be a solicitor by working at a law firm.

Transaction at an Undervalue – A transaction at an undervalue can describe either a gift or a transaction in which the consideration received is significantly less than that given. In certain circumstances such a transaction can be challenged by an administrator, a liquidator or a trustee in bankruptcy.

Transparent- is being open and honest in a way that others can understand.

Tribunal – a person or group who collectively have the authority to determine a dispute as a form of alternative dispute resolution.

Trustee – (a) Trustee in bankruptcy – the authorized insolvency practitioner appointed to deal with the estate of the bankrupt;
(b) Trustee under a deed of arrangement – the authorized insolvency practitioner appointed to deal with the estate of the person who entered into the deed.


UNCITRAL – United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

Unfair Dismissal – an employee is entitled to make a claim for unfair dismissal once they are employed for two years if they are dismissed in circumstances that are not one of the 5 potentially fair reasons set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996).

Unregistered company – a company which is not registered under the Companies Act. 

Unsecured Creditor – A creditor who does not hold security (such as a mortgage) for money owed. Some unsecured creditors may also be preferential creditors.

Undisclosed Bankrupt – Someone against whom a bankruptcy order has been made and who has not been discharged from bankruptcy.


Valuation– Is the process that determines the value or worth of an asset.

VAT Bad Debt Relief – The relief obtained in respect of the VAT element of an unpaid debt. Previously available only when the debtor became insolvent, relief is now available on any debt unpaid for more than 6 months.

Voluntary Liquidation – A method of liquidation not involving the courts or the Official Receiver. There are 2 types of voluntary liquidation – members’ voluntary liquidation for solvent companies and creditors’ voluntary liquidation for insolvent companies.

Voluntary disclosure– Is a tax program where a delinquent taxpayer discloses information voluntarily to avoid any liabilities or prosecution prior non-disclosure.

Vendor– Is the seller of something. Most often used to refer a transaction involving real property.

Venue– The location proposed of a judicial hearing.

Vicarious liability– Is where an employer of an employee injures someone through negligence whilst in the course of employment.

Vesting order– is a way where the High Court transfers land without the need for a conveyance. 

Vexatious litigant– is a person who regularly brings court cases which have little chance of succeeding.

Violent disorder– is when  three or more people in a gathering are threatening to or using unlawful violence. 

Void– unable to be enforced by the law.    


Warrant – a legal document permitting the police to take certain actions such as arresting a suspect or searching a property.

Waiver– an act of relinquishing or refraining from asserting a legal right.

Will – a legal document declaring a person’s wishes about the way their estate should be distributed upon their death.

Winding-up – (Or liquidation) – the procedure whereby the assets of a company (or partnership) are gathered in and realised, the liabilities met and the surplus, if any, distributed to members.

Winding-up Petition – A winding-up petition is a petition presented to the court seeking an order that a company be put into compulsory liquidation.

Winding-up Order – Order of a court, usually based on a creditor’s petition, for the compulsory winding up or liquidation of a company or partnership.

Without prejudice – when this is written on the document it can not be used as evidence. 

Witness – someone who watches a document being signed to verify the authenticity of the document; or testifies regarding an event that they know information about. 




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