Legal vocabulary

Many people aspire to work in the legal industry- it’s a well-respected and diverse career path that can open doors to many professional opportunities. Studying law is the first step you need to take in order to set yourself on the path to becoming a legal practitioner. A law degree is notoriously difficult for most people, but can be even harder if you’re trying to study in what isn’t your first language.


People in the legal profession use their own legal jargon in reports, contracts and arguments in court. These can be difficult to follow and understand at first, but once you get your head around some of the key vocabulary, it can make things a lot easier. Whether you already work in the legal profession, are studying law, or are completing an internship or placement at a legal company, take a look at our legal vocabulary cheat sheet and see what you can learn.



To be declared not guilty, and relieved from a charge of fault or crime.

E.g. Many people were surprised that OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder.



A petition to a higher court to reverse or modify the decision of a lower court.

E.g. David was going to appeal the decision of his trial.



Bail is money asked for by the court to secure the release of a person that has been arrested, the amount of money that is asked for increases according to the severity of the crime. The money is supposed to guarantee the appearance of the defendant when they are required in court. Bail may be refused for defendants that are deemed a danger to the public or that are suspected to flee.  

E.g. When Claire was arrested, her mum paid her bail. 



Barristers are people that have been called to the bar and can represent individuals or organisations in court. They are usually hired by solicitors to represent a case, only becoming involved once advocacy before a court is needed. They may also be used by their clients as independent sources of legal advice.

E.g. After completion of her studies, Megan found success as a barrister.



The legal right to control the production, distribution and selling of a book, play, film, piece of music, or photograph. The law that governs copyright in the UK is called the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

E.g. Rachel was assured that her book was protected by copyright.


Court martial

A specific court made up of military and naval personnel that passes judgement on offenses made by members of the armed services that are against military law.

E.g. He was found guilty by court martial and imprisoned. 



Duress is the use of unlawful pressure, (force, threats, false imprisonment) upon an individual to force them to act contrary to their wishes.

E.g. The agreement was found null and void by the court after they heard that it was signed under duress.



The fraudulent conversion of someone else’s property (usually money), by a person that has been placed in a position of trust, such as an employee or a banker.

E.g. Justin was sent to jail after embezzling thousands of pounds from his company.



Someone that is on the run, or in hiding.

E.g. After escaping from prison, Angela became a fugitive.



Defined as the killing of one human being by another. Not all homicides are a crime; killing for justified self-defence is an example of legal homicide.

E.g. Knives account for almost a third of all homicides.


These are just a few of the many different legal terms you’ll need to know if you’re preparing for a career as a lawyer or other type of legal practitioner. If you’re interested in perfecting your English skills for law, then you should take a look at The Language Gallery’s English for Law course, and see if it suits you. 

All our classes are now available online, click here to learn more.
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