Alternative business structures were brought in by the Legal Services Act in October 2011 and are licensed by the SRA. ABS enable lawyers to form partnerships with non-lawyers, and allow companies to invest in law firms and provide legal services.


Alternative dispute resolution, which comprises various methods for resolving problems without going to court.


The act of arguing or pleading in favour of something. A key skill for lawyers.


A written statement, the truth of which must be sworn before an officer of the court.


A legal decree that states that a marriage was never valid.


A request to a supervisory court, usually composed of a panel of judges, to overturn the legal ruling of a lower court.


A method of alternative dispute resolution in which the disputing parties agree to abide by the decision of an arbitrator.


The predecessor to the training contract.

Articles of incorporation

A document that must be filed in order for a company to incorporate. Among the things it must include are the name and address of the corporation, its general purpose, and the number and type of shares and stock to be issued.

Assistant solicitor

Next step on the career ladder after the two-year training period.

Associate solicitor

Next step on the career ladder after working as an assistant solicitor.

Associated office

(Usually overseas) office with which a firm has an arrangement to share work and to second trainees.

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Bad faith

Dishonesty or fraud in a transaction, such as entering into an agreement with no intention of honouring its terms.


The money a defendant pays as a guarantee that he or she will show up in court at a later date.


Another term for insolvency.


Informal term used to refer to the barristers’ branch of the legal profession.

Bar Council

Official body representing barristers in England and Wales.

Bar Standards Board

Independent board responsible for regulating barristers in England and Wales.


A lawyer who has been called to the bar and who appears in court to argue a client's case.


Person named in a will or insurance policy to receive money or property; person who receives benefits from trust.

Black-letter law

The principles of law which are generally known and free from doubt or dispute.

Board of Directors

The group of people elected by a corporation's shareholders to make major business decisions for the company.


A department (or even an entire smaller firm) joins an existing firm. Generally the larger firm did not practice in the specialist area in which the newcomers excel.


A document with which one party promises to pay another within a specified amount of time.


Small niche firm offering specialist advice on a few areas of law.


The Bar Professional Training Course (formerly BVC), the stage between the degree and pupillage.


Details of a client's case, prepared by a solicitor and given to the barrister who argues it in court.

Burden of proof

The duty of a party in a case to convince the judge or jury that enough facts exist to prove the allegations in question.


The Bar Vocational Course, renamed the BPTC from September 2010.

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Call to the Bar

A formal ceremony following completion of the BVC during which you are given the title of barrister.

Case law

The law created by judges when deciding individual cases. Also known as ‘common law’.

Caveat emptor

Latin for 'buyer beware', giving the buyer full responsibility for determining the quality of the goods in question.

Certified paralegal

A paralegal who has achieved the TPA qualification which recognises the necessary skills and level of professionalism.


Offices of a group of barristers.

Chinese walls

Procedures enforced within firms to restrict access to certain information and so avoid any awkward conflicts of interest.


The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives is the professional body that represents trainee and practising chartered legal executives. See also "Legal executive".

Citizens Advice

A charity service offering legal and financial advice to the public.


The commercial and financial area in the centre of London.


Formerly plaintiff. The person or body that initiates a law suit.


A supplement to a will.


An asset that a borrower agrees to give up if he or she fails to repay a loan.

Commercial awareness

The ability to view legal situations from a business or commercial perspective, and an understanding of what commercial law firms actually do and how they interact with other businesses/clients.

Common law

The law created by judges when deciding individual cases. Also known as ‘case law’.


Legal situation where a dispute has arisen.

Contingency fee

A fee arrangement in which the lawyer is paid out of any damages that are awarded.


An agreement between two or more parties in which an offer is made and accepted, and each party benefits.


A person's right to prevent others from copying works that he or she has written, authorised or otherwise created.

Corporate finance

This area of law involves advising clients on mergers and acquisitions, takeovers, stock exchange floatations and the like.


An independent entity created to conduct a business.


Barrister(s) acting for one of the parties in a legal action.


Common Professional Exam, a conversion course for non-law graduates. More often referred to as the GDL.


The Crown Prosecution Service is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. Employs solicitors and barristers.


An individual (or institution) to whom money is owed.

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The financial compensation awarded to someone who suffered an injury or was harmed by someone else's wrongful act.


Person who owes money.


The judgement rendered by a court.


A written legal document that describes a property and outlines its boundaries.


The publication of a statement that injures a person's reputation. Libel and slander are defamation.


In criminal cases, the person accused of the crime. In civil matters, the person or organisation that is being sued.


Doing paperwork for other members of chambers.


Occasions when the Inns of Court invite student members to dine with them, providing the opportunity to make valuable contacts.

Due diligence

Investigation carried out to establish an accurate picture of a company's finances and market position.

Due process

The concept that laws and legal proceedings must be fair.

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The European Convention of Human Rights of 1950 for the protection of human rights within the member states of the Council of Europe.


Any claim or restriction on a property's title.

Equity partner

A partner at a firm who owns a share of the business (and is liable for its failures).


Money or documents, such as a deed or title, held by a third party until the conditions of an agreement are met.


All the property that a person owns.


The various testimony and documents presented in court to give an alleged fact.

Ex parte

Latin term meaning 'by or for one party'. Refers to situations in which only one party appears before a judge.


Person named in a will to oversee and manage an estate.

Expert witness

A witness with a specialised knowledge of a subject who is allowed to discuss an event in court even though he or she was not present.

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Fee earner

A lawyer at a firm for whose time the firm charges.

First six

The first six months of a pupillage. During this stage the pupil will train under a barister but will not have rights of audience.

Force majeure

When parties to a commercial agreement are excused from performance of the contract due to events that are beyond their control.


A business relationship in which an owner (the franchisor) licenses others (the franchisees) to operate outlets.


The Financial Times Stock Exchange. The FTSE 100 is an index of the top 100 companies in the country, based on share value and turnover.

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Graduate Diploma in Law, which enables non-law students to convert to law. Formerly known as the ‘PGDL’. See also CPE.


The Government Legal Service provides legal services across the spectrum of the government’s activities. Employs solicitors and barristers.

Good faith

Honestly and without deception.

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Human Rights Act 1998

Statute that requires public authorities to act in a way that is compatible with the rights guaranteed by the ECHR and requires the courts to read and give effect to primary legislation in a way that is compatible with the convention rights.

Hung jury

A jury that is unable to reach verdict.

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In camera

Latin for 'in chambers'. Refers to a hearing or inspection of documents that takes place in private, often in a judge's chambers.


Refers to a lawyer who works within a company (not a law firm) as a salaried employee.

Inns of Court

Collective name of the four legal societies in London that have the exclusive right of admission to the Bar.

Interlocutory order

Temporary order issued during the course of litigation. Typically cannot be appealed because it is not final.


To die without a will.


Initial public offerings (listing companies on the stock exchange).

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Jackson reforms

Civil costs reforms recommended in a report by Lord Justice Jackson that came into force on 1 April 2013.


Part of the Law Society, the Junior Lawyers Division a group for students, trainees and newly qualified solicitors. It supersedes the Trainee Solicitors’ Group (TSG) and the Young Solicitors Group (YSG).


A court's official decision on the matter before it.


A court's authority to rule on the questions of law at issue in a dispute.

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The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 introduced wide-ranging changes to the legal aid system and reformed the use of conditional fee agreements. Highly controversial.

Law clinic

A free legal advice centre, usually staffed by volunteer lawyers.

Law Commission

An independent body set up in 1965 to keep the law of England and Wales under review and to recommend reform where needed.

Law Society

Official body representing solicitors in England and Wales.


Umbrella term used to refer to both barristers and solicitors.


Legal disciplinary practices - introduced by the Legal Services Act - allow the eight different types of 'official' lawyer, known as authorised persons (ie, solicitor, barrister, legal executive, licensed conveyancer, trademark attorney, patent attorney, notary and costs lawyer), to go into partnership. They also permit firms to have up to 25% of their partnership made up of non-lawyers offering ancillary services to the main purpose of the practice.

Legal aid

A scheme which gives to persons whose disposable income and capital fall within the limits prescribed advice, assistantce and/or representation in legal proceedings.

Legal apprentice

An individual who joins a law firm straight from school, rather than going to university, to work in a role similar to that of a paralegal.

Legal executive

A qualified legal professional who specialises in a particular area of law and often performs work that is similar to that of a solicitor. See also "CILEx".

Legal Services Act 2007

A law that has opened up the legal market by allowing lawyers to form new business structures and permitting corporations to move into the legal services market.

Legal Services Board

The independent body responsible for overseeing the regulation of lawyers in England and Wales. Became fully operational on 1 January 2010.

Legal Services Commission

The body that runs the legal aid scheme in England and Wales.


Launched in 2010, the Legal Education and Training Review looked at ethical standards and levels of competence among legal professionals. Its findings were published in June 2013.


Legal responsibility, duty or obligation.


Defamatory written statements or materials.


Letters written after someone's name, showing that he or she has the degree of Bachelor of Laws.


A limited liability company is a business structure that is a hybrid of a partnership and a corporation.


Letters written after someone's name, showing that he or she has a doctorate in law.


Letters written after someone's name, showing that he or she has the degree of Master of Laws.


A limited liability partnership is essentially a hybrid between general and limited partnerships. An LLP allows partners not to be personally liable for the negligent acts of the other partners.


A system by which partners’ pay is decided by time served as partner in predictable sequence. Pay rises in a series of steps (eg, after one, three, five, seven and 10 years).


The Legal Practice Course is the vocational stage between degree and training contract.


The Legal Professional Qualification: Foundation Certificate in Paralegal Practice is a course developed to teach law graduates the practical skills necessary to become a paralegal (as an alternative to becoming a lawyer).

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Mergers and acquisitions. A merger occurs where two or more companies join as one. An acquisition is the takeover of one company by another.

Magic circle

Term used to refer to the top five UK law firms: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter and May.


Multi-disciplinary partnership. A combination firm offering a full range of professional services, particularly law and accountancy functions.


A method of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party helps resolve a dispute.


Work experience within a set of chambers.

Ministry of Justice

The body responsible for prisons, judges and courts, and probation.


A mock trial, designed to test advocacy skills.

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A failure to use the degree of care that a reasonable person would use given a certain set of circumstances.

Niche firm/chambers

Firm or set that specialises in a certain area of law.

No win, no fee

An agreement whereby a solicitor acting in a claim is entitled to be paid his fee only if he wins. Such payment is usually made by the losers or their insurance company. Also known as a ‘conditional fee’.


Legal situation where there is no dispute.


An official authorized to certify deeds, contracts, copies of documents, etc.

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A non-lawyer who does legal work that often resembles that of a solicitor. See also "Certified paralegal".

Paralegal advisory firm

A paralegal advisory firm (PAF) is a firm made up entirely of paralegals. As of 2008, there were currently 4,000 in the United Kingdom.


An association of two or more people who agree to share in the profits and losses of a business venture.


A document issued to an inventor, detailing ownership, rights and the nature of the invention.


A crime in which a person knowingly makes a false statement while under oath in court.

Piercing the corporate veil

The concept through which a corporation's shareholders, who are usually protected from liability for the corporation's activities, may be held responsible for certain actions.


The allegations by each party of their claims and defences.

Power of Attorney

The authority to act legally for another person.


A previously decided case that is considered binding in the court where it was issued and in all lower courts in the same jurisdiction.

Prima facie

Latin for 'at first view', meaning that a matter appears to be self-evident on first examination

Pro bono

The giving of free legal advice and services.

Profits per partner

A firm’s total profit divided by the number of partners at the firm. The best benchmark for comparing how successful firms are.


Professional skills course, which must be passed while training to qualify as a solicitor.

Punitive damages

Money awarded to a victim that is intended to punish a defendant and stop the person or business from repeating the type of conduct that caused the injury in question.

Pupil barrister

A trainee barrister who is effectively practising, but is not yet fully qualified. Also known as a ‘pupil’.

Pupil supervisor

A barrister who oversees your training during pupillage.


The training period before qualifying as a barrister.

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'Queen's Counsel', a barrister who has been appointed counsel to Her Majesty on the advice of the lord chancellor. Also known as a 'silk'.

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A lawyer who generates a large amount of business for a law firm by bringing in clients.


The process of appointment by a court of a receiver to take custody of the property, business, rents and profits of a party to a lawsuit pending a final decision.

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Salaried partner

Unlike an equity partner still an employee of a firm though with enhanced status, influence and responsibilities.


Periods of training during a training contract.

Second six

The second six months of pupillage. The pupil continues to train under a barrister but has rights of audience in all courts.


Placement with a law firm’s client.


The resolution or compromise by the parties in a civil case.


The Solicitors Indemnity Fund, covering liability for claims made against its members.


Another term for QC.


Defamatory verbal statements.


A lawyer who provides clients with skilled advice and representation. Mostly works in private practice.


The payment of your GDL and/or LPC fees by a firm if they’ve already offered you a training contract.

Square mile

London’s financial centre, as defined by London's old medieval walls.


A barrister who remains in chambers after pupillage but not as a tenant.


The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the body in charge of setting and maintaining standards for solicitors.

Stare decisis

Latin for ‘to stand by that which is decided’. Refers to the principle of adhering to precedent when deciding a case.


An order compelling a person to appear to testify or produce documents.

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A barrister based in a particular set of chambers after pupillage.

Tesco law

Euphemistic term for both the Legal Services Act and ABS, which allows companies (eg, supermarkets or banks) to provide legal services. See also "ABS".


Ownership of property.


A civil wrong that results in an injury to a person or property.


A word, name or symbol used to identify products sold or services provided by a business.

Training contract

The two-year pre-qualification training period for a solicitor. Formerly known as ‘articles’.


A deal arranged by two sets of lawyers.


A court or forum established to settle certain types of dispute.


A legal obligation with respect to property given by one person (donor) to another (trustee).

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Vacation scheme

Paid, formal work experience within a law firm. Also known as a ‘work placement scheme’.

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White shoe firm

A traditional, ‘well-heeled’ and established US firm

White-collar crime

Term referring to financial crimes, such as fraud or insider dealing, committed primarily by persons at management level.

Woolf Report

Report by Lord Woolf on the civil justice system, which led to reform through the Civil Procedure Rules 1998.

Work placement scheme

Paid, formal work experience within a law firm, usually for one or two weeks. Also known as a ‘vacation scheme’.

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