Legal Jargon

This is a glossary of legal sector jargon (a.k.a. = also known as):

Academic Course

A law course, like most degrees, which teaches law as an academic subject rather than a practice-orientated one


A member of the Institute who has not yet started practising law

American Firms

Because the City of London and Hong Kong are such major financial centres, many American law firms have offices there

Associate Prosecutor

A paralegal prosecutor working for the Crown Prosecution Service, handling lower level criminal prosecutions in court

Associate/Assistant Solicitor

An employed solicitor working usually in a solicitors' firm. Not a partner/owner. Below partners in the firm hierarchy

Associate Paralegal

Professional designations given to practising members of the Institute of Paralegals have not yet reached Qualified Paralegal status


Another name for a lawyer in many jurisdictions


A lawyer licensed to call him/herself a barrister by being called to the Bar. Barristers specialise in advocacy work in courts and in providing expert opinions to solicitors and others on specific points of law

Bar Vocational Course/Bar Professional Training Course (a.k.a. the BVC/BPTC)

The one-year mandatory postgraduate course for would-be barristers in England & Wales (P.C.LL in Hong Kong)

City Firm

A solicitors' firm operating in the City of London (the Square Mile) and which has a commercial law practice


The collective name given to the offices where a group of self-employed barristers work and share facilities


A catch-all term for employed solicitors in a solicitors' firm who are not partners or assistants/associates

Competency Standards

One of the range of national competency standards issued by the Institute of Paralegals for paralegals and legal secretaries


Another name for a barrister - see above


Continuing professional development: usually referring to a scheme requiring a minimum amount of training to be done each year by a professional


Common Professional Exam - another name for the GDL, see below

CPS Caseworker

An administrative or paralegal position (depending on level) in the Crown Prosecution Service

Crown Prosecution Service

The government agency which conducts most criminal prosecutions in the UK

Crown Prosecutor

A solicitor or barrister who works for the Crown Prosecution Service and who prosecutes criminal cases in court

Employed Barrister

A barrister who is employed by an organisation rather than working for themselves in a barristers' chambers

Equity Partner

A partner in a solicitors' firm who owns part of the business and shares in any profits and is part-responsible for any losses

Fee Earner

A person in a solicitors' firm who charges clients for the work he/she does

Fellow of the IOP

A Fellow of the Institute of Paralegals. The term used by Institute members who are both established in their careers and who have also successfully completed an approved curse/passed a competency test

Graduate Diploma in Law (a.k.a. the GDL)

The one-year graduate level course in England & Wales equivalent to a qualifying law degree for non-law graduates

In-House Counsel

A lawyer working for a company or other organisation rather than for a firm of lawyers. In-house counsel tend to be solicitors or barristers, but can be lawyers from any jurisdiction. Occasionally they are paralegals

In-House Legal Department

The department run by a company's/local authority etc, own legal staff to provide legal advice to its employer


The Institute of Paralegals, the professional body setting competency standards, representing paralegals and administering the Route to Qualification careers path for paralegals


A place with its own legal system (e.g. France, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Jersey, California, etc)

Law Conversion Course

Another name for the GDL - see above

Law Firm

A solicitors' firm or, increasingly, a paralegal law firm

Law Society

The professional body for solicitors. In England & Wales it is The Law Society of England & Wales, in Hong Kong The Law Society of Hong Kong, etc. Called Bar associations in the United States of America and other countries where there is a fused profession (i.e. just lawyers/attorneys, not solicitors and barristers as split professions. May also have a regulatory function, depending on the jurisdiction.


Someone who practises law: solicitor, barrister, attorney, etc. Technically can also describe a paralegal (given that they practise law) but traditionally used just to describe those legal practitioners working in a regulated profession (e.g. solicitors and barristers)

Legal Aid

The UK and Hong Kong government schemes whereby the government pays solicitors and others to act for people unable to afford their own representation or who have been accused of a criminal offence

Legal Executive

A type of lawyer in the UK. In Hong Kong a paralegal who has successfully completed a course approved by the Law Society of Hong Kong

Legal Practice Course/Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (a.k.a. the LPC/P.C.LL)

The mandatory postgraduate course for would-be solicitors: LPC in England & Wales, P.C.LL in Hong Kong

Magic Circle

The group of circa 10 leading (by income) solicitors' firms. All City based


A postgraduate degree which specialises in a legal (or other) topic


A default, catch-all term covering people who practise law (note it is 'practise', not 'practice') but who are not one of the above eight groups or a European or other overseas lawyer practising the law of their own jurisdiction (a overseas lawyer from a non EU jurisdiction who practises the law of a jurisdiction in which they are not qualified is considered to be a paralegal for those purposes). 'Paralegal' is therefore a very wide term covering everyone from an experienced legal secretary who assists his/her boss with legal matters on a file (e.g. doing many of the procedural steps in conveying a house) to an Australian lawyer in England for two years and working for a City firm as a fee-earner doing mergers and acquisition work. In solicitors' firms paralegals have a variety of titles: paralegal, legal assistant, conveyancing executive, debt recovery assistant, etc. Outside of solicitors' firms paralegals are rarely called paralegals. They are called things like contracts managers, company secretaries, legal affairs assistant, caseworkers, housing officers, etc. The key point is that when it comes to paralegal work you have to largely ignore the job title and look at the work done, i.e. titles are largely irrelevant in the paralegal world. What counts is relevant practise experience. Relevant practise experience is the most prized thing in the paralegal world. Formal legal training is recognised, but considered a poor second to good experience

Paralegal Law Firm

A partnership or company offering legal services, but which is owned and run by paralegals rather than lawyers


A partner in a solicitors' firm. Still used to describe solicitor directors in partnerships which have become a limited company or a limited liability partnership

Practice Area

The type of law that a legal practitioner specialises in, e.g. crime, family, tax, probate etc. Both solicitors and paralegals nowadays tend to specialise

Professional Support Lawyers (a.k.a. PSLs)

Solicitors working in a solicitors' firm who do not do fee-earning work, but who instead keep the fee-earners up to date with relevant professional and legal developments and who undertake research and training

Qualified Paralegal

A professional designation given to experienced members of the Institute of Paralegals

Qualifying Law Degree

A law degree approved by the Law Society of England & Wales or Hong Kong as covering essential topics. Not all law degrees are qualifying ones

Regulated lawyers

The eight groups of registered lawyers in England & Wales who are recognised, by and regulated under, the Legal Services Act 2007: solicitors, barristers, notaries, licensed conveyancers, trade mark agents, legal executives, patent agents and law costs draftsmen

Salaried Partner

An interim stage used by many solicitors' firms before equity partnership. The person remains employed, not an owner, even though they are held out to the world as a partner

Silver Circle Firm

The solicitors' firms just outside the Magic Circle in the UK


An individual admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in Hong Kong or England & Wales and who holding a current practicing certificate

Solicitors' Firm

An individual, pair or group of solicitors operating a commercial business as a partnership, limited company or limited liability partnership

Solicitors Regulation Authority

The regulator for the solicitors' profession in England & Wales

Support Staff

A catch-all term used by solicitors' firms to describe all staff who are not fee-earners

Trainee Solicitors

People undertaking the two-year training contract/apprenticeship that would-be solicitors in Hong Kong and England & Wales have to do (previously called articled clerks)

Training Contract

The two-year training contract/apprenticeship that would-be solicitors in Hong Kong and England & Wales have to do before they are qualified (a.k.a. 'admitted')

Vocational Course

A legal course which focuses on things practitioners need to know rather than academic principles of law, e.g. relevant deadlines, how to complete official documentation, crucial questions to ask witnesses, relevant procedural steps, etc.


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