Lawyers in general, like all professions, love to make that which is simple sound incredibly complex to the average bystander; this is one way professions can justify their charging rates and maintain an air of mystery. In recent history lawyers have been accused of using Latin to keep the public in the dark about what is happening and in the 17th Century, when many clients would have received a classical education including Latin, the lawyers used to use terms from ancient Greek for the same reason. In the lawyer's defence a latin term is sometimes just the best one for the job, and nobody would bat an eyelid at everyday latin where it is useful (i.e., e.g., et cetera.).
However, as well as Latin (and some French) there were a host of esoteric terms which were deemed in England and Wales in the late 1990s to prevent the average person being able to use and understand the court system and litigation in general. The government commissions an investigation and report by Lord Woolf (a former barrister and senior judge) which resulted in the Civil Procedure Rules of 1998. This report and these rules, amongst other things, swept away many of the old fashioned terms used by the profession and courts, in favour of everyday words readily understandable to the public.
However, it is still the case with older practitioners in England and Wales, when reading old case law, or when dealing with jurisdictions where the reforms have never taken place (Scotland, Ireland, USA India etc.), that the old terms still need to be understood. So we have prepared the following list as a guide.
Action - Claim
Affidavit - Witness Statement
Anton Piller Order - Search Order
Calderbank Offer - Part 36 Offer
Decree Absolute - Final Order
Decree Nisi - Conditional Order
Ex Parte - Without Notice
In Camera - In Private
Interlocutory - Interim
Plaintiff - Claimant
Pleadings - Statement of Case
Subpoena - Witness Summons