Glossary of Legal Terms

At Turke & Strauss, we try to take the mystery out of legal services. That is why we tell you, upfront, how much something will likely cost and how long it will likely take to complete any project. Although we cannot predict what other parties will do, we can certainly give you the information needed to make an informed decision. On that note, we try to leave the legal jargon at home and we have created this glossary of legal terms in an attempt to translate “legal speak” into plain English. Let us know if we missed any important terms, so we can add to our growing list.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

(“ADR”) [Cornell University Law School] Any method of resolving disputes other than by litigation. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/alternative_dispute_resolution [T&S] A process to resolve disputes, outside of filing a legal action. ADR regularly includes mediation and/or arbitration.

Arbitration

[Black’s Law Dictionary] The investigation and determination of a matter or matters of difference between contending parties, by one or more unofficial persons, chosen by the parties, and called “arbitrators,” or “referees.” http://thelawdictionary.org/arbitration/ [T&S] A process to settle disputes, outside of a court proceeding, that generally involves a mini-trial. Arbitration proceedings have many of the elements of a judicial proceeding but are often less formal, less expensive, and less time-consuming.

Arbitrator

[Merriam Webster] an impartial person or group that is given the power by disputing parties to resolve their dispute — compare mediator. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arbitrator [T&S] The person who is appointed to settle the dispute in the arbitration (mini-hearing).

Class Action

[Merriam Webster] a lawsuit in which many people join together to sue because they all say they were harmed by the same person or group. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/class%20action A big lawsuit with many plaintiffs (generally at least 40), who were all harmed in similar ways by the Defendants(s).

Complaint

[Cornell University Law School] The pleading that starts a case. Essentially, a document that sets forth a jurisdictional basis for the court’s power, the plaintiff’s cause of action, and a demand for judicial relief. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/complaint

Counter Claim

[Black’s Law Dictionary] The term that is given to the claim or cause of action against the plaintiff by the defendant. http://thelawdictionary.org/counterclaim/ [T&S] A claim filed by the defendant against the plaintiff.

Demand

[US Legal] Demand means to state a need, requirement or entitlement, such as demanding payment or performance under a contract. http://definitions.uslegal.com/d/demand/ [T&S] Typically a letter that commands another party to pay a specific amount or act a certain way. A demand letter is sometimes sent before filing a lawsuit.

Exposure

[Black’s Law Dictionary] The act or state of exposing or being exposed. http://thelawdictionary.org/exposure/ [T&S] A situation that can create liability or an obligation to pay.

Fee Shifting

[American Bar Association] Fee-shifting statutes and rules vary, sometimes requiring the loser in a legal matter to pay for the legal fees and costs of the prevailing party. www.americanbar.org/…/fee_shifting.html [T&S] A rule or a law that forces the losing party to pay the legal fees of the winning party. There are many variations of fee shifting rules and laws.

Liability

[Black’s Law Dictionary] Lawful accountability and obligations required due to civil actions or torts, or a contract’s terms. http://thelawdictionary.org/legal-liability/ [T&S] A scenario that creates an obligation or responsibility for something. Sample Sentence: Our liability grew when we failed to fix the broken chair, now we must pay for the customer’s back surgery.

Litigation

[Black’s Law Dictionary] A judicial controversy. A contest in court of justice, for the purpose of enforcing a right. http://thelawdictionary.org/litigation/ [T&S] Litigation is the process of participating in a lawsuit.

Mediation

[Law.com] the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party (mediator) who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result. http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1233 [T&S] The process

Meet and Confer

[Law.com] a requirement of courts that before certain types of motions and/or petitions will be heard by the judge, the lawyers (and sometimes their clients) must “meet and confer” to try to resolve the matter or at least determine the points of conflict. http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1235 [T&S]

Negotiation

[Black’s Law Dictionary] The deliberation, discussion, or conference upon the terms of a proposed agreement; the act of settling or arranging the terms and conditions of a bar-gain, sale, or other business transaction. Also the transfer of, or act of putting into circulation, a negotiable instrument. http://thelawdictionary.org/negotiation/ [T&S] a process where the parties to a dispute come together in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

Statutory Damages

[Nolo.com] Predetermined payments established by law to compensate for certain injuries. Statutory damages are sometimes made available because it is too difficult to calculate actual damages. https://www.nolo.com/dictionary/statutory-damages-term.html [T&S] Damages that are defined by law.

Summary Judgement

[Law.com] a court order ruling that no factual issues remain to be tried and therefore a cause of action or all causes of action in a complaint can be decided upon certain facts without trial. http://dictionary.law.com/default.aspx?selected=2063 [T&S] A court order that is decided in favor of one party, without a full trial. A summary judgement order could involve discreet issues or it could involve the entire dispute.