Jargon Buster


ADR This stands for ‘alternative dispute resolution’. It is used as a way to resolve disputes without going to court. Mediation is an example of this.


The bar A term used to describe the barristers’ branch of the legal profession.

The Bar Council This is the governing body that represents the interests of barristers. Its role is to promote and improve the services and functions of the bar, and to represent the interests of the profession.

Black letter law Learning what the law actually says, as opposed to studying the law in its social, political and practical context.

Boutique/niche A small firm that specialises in one, or very few, areas of law.

Brief The details of a client’s case for use in court.

BPTC This stands for the ‘Bar Professional Training Course’. It is the course that must be completed after a law degree or non-law degree and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). It trains students in the skills necessary to become barristers. 


Call (to the bar) The final step towards gaining the title of barrister.

Chambers/Set The offices where barristers work.

Chinese wall A system that firms put in place when a conflict of interest arises between their clients. Chinese walls, which are also referred to as ‘information barriers’, prevent the flow of information between two teams at the same firm advising different clients on the opposite sides of a deal.

Common law/case law The legal system that has developed in England and Wales through court rulings rather than through acts of parliament.

Contentious A dispute that calls for a legal remedy.

CPE This stands for ‘Common Professional Examination’. See GDL.


Damages Money claimed by a defendant as compensation for being harmed in some way, or to recover financial loss.

Defendant A person accused of a crime or someone who is being sued in a civil case.

Due diligence A process, typically undertaken by junior lawyers/paralegals, involving reviewing a company’s legal and financial documents to flag up any issues that may cause problems during and/or after a transaction.


Equity partner A partner at a law firm who owns a share of the business and whose pay comes from the profit.


Fee- earner A lawyer who charges a fee to take on instructions or cases. Non-fee earners working at law firms include professional support lawyers and support staff.


GDL Stands for the ‘Graduate Diploma in Law’. It is the qualification that allows non-law graduates to convert, as does the CPE.


Inns of Court The collective name given to Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple.


Judgment A court’s decision on a case it has heard. Note that judgment when used in legal terms is spelt with one ‘e’.


The Law Society The regulatory and representative body of solicitors in England and Wales.

Legal aid Free legal advice or representation available, in certain cases, for people who are unable to pay for it themselves.

LLP This stands for ‘limited liability partnership’ and is the business structure increasingly used by law firms. It allows partners to limit their liability to the amount they invest in the firm, unless they are some how personally responsible for the loss.

Lockstep A system for paying partners according to how long they have been in the partnership. Lawyers in the partnership for three years, for example, will all earn the same, even though they may all bring different amounts of work to the firm.

LPC This stands for ‘Legal Practice Course’. It is the vocational course taken before the commencement of a training contract.


Magic circle The term used for the four largest UK law firms: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters.

MDP This stands for ‘multidisciplinary partnership’. The structure allows different professions, such as accountants, lawyers and estate agents, to work together in partnership.

Mini-pupillage Work experience undertaken at barristers’ chambers.

Moot Arguing a legal point, usually as part of a mock trial. Universities often run mooting competitions.


Negligence The act of failing to take reasonable care.


Profit per partner (PEP) The profit that each partner receives once the total profit has been divided among them. It is viewed as the key measure of the success of a law firm.

Pupillage The period of chambers-based training required before you can become a practising barrister.


QC This stands for ‘Queen’s Counsel’. It is a kitemark of excellence awarded to senior barristers that allows them to charge top whack. QCs are also known as ‘silks’.


Rainmaker A lawyer who brings in lots of work and makes lots of money for their firm.

Revenue per lawyer (RPL) The total revenue divided by the numer of lawyers in the law firm. It is viewed as another key measure of the success of a law firm.


Seat The time spent during the two-year training contract working in different practice areas.

Secondment A period of time spent working in-house at one of a law firm’s clients.

Silk See QC.

Square Mile London’s financial centre. Also known as the City.


Tenant A barrister based in a set of chambers. And yes, it also means someone living or working in rented accommodation.

Tort A civil wrong, such as negligence, meaning the victim is able to claim damages. Tort is one of the seven foundations of legal knowledge.

Training contract The two-year work- based training period that must be completed before you are able to qualify as a solicitor. Historically, this was referred to as ‘articles’.

Trust A legal instrument that enables assets to be held for the benefit of a third party (a beneficiary).

Tribunal Specialist courts outside of the mainstream judicial system. For example the Employment Tribunal.


Vacation scheme Work experience undertaken at a law firm during the holiday periods.


White shoe firm The name given to an elite group of New York law firms, such as Cravath Swaine & Moore and Sullivan & Cromwell.