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24 Surprisingly Simple Legal Terms Every Paralegal Should Know

Whether you’re taking Blackstone Career Institute’s Paralegal Program, you’ve graduated and are looking for a job, or are in the career field and need a refresher, it’s important to have a working knowledge of the terminology used in the field. Not only will a comprehension of the words show your competence to an employer, you will be prepared to take the NALA exam to become a certified paralegal, and a working knowledge of legal terms contributes to your ability to perform your job accurately and efficiently.

There will always be room to learn and grow; and perhaps, you haven’t encountered some of these legal terms and how they function. Nevertheless, reviewing legal terms is good practice to keep your vocabulary sharp and in use prepared for when situations do arise.


Legal Terms and Definitions

Acquittal—when the jury decides a criminal is not guilty of a crime or if the evidence is not sufficient enough for a conviction.

Affidavit—a written statement that is made under oath.

Alternate juror—an individual who listen to the evidence but does not vote on the case unless needed to replace the regular juror.

Appeal—request made by a party who has lost after a trial has occurred asking that a higher court review the case and decision to decide if it was an accurate ruling.

Appellant—the party who completes the appeal and is looking for a change in the decision.

Appellate—this court has the authority to assess the judgement of the lower court.

Appellee—the party who is against the appellant’s appeal and tries to convince the court to abide by the decision already made.

Burden of proof—task of proving disputed facts (example: the government must prove the defendant’s guilt in a criminal case)

Class Action—a group of people decide to sue on behalf of the entire entity or class.

Contingent Claim—claim that is owed by the debtor under specific circumstances such as a cosigner on someone’s loan who failed to pay

Deposition—a spoken statement in front of an officer who has the power to administer oaths

Docket—a complete history of a case broken down in short, chronological entries that summarize the proceedings.

Due Process—a guarantee that the defendant will have a fair and impartial trial.

Habeas Corpus—this phrase is Latin for “you have the body” and requires police or other law enforcement officials to justify why they are holding a prisoner.

Indictment—official charge issued by a grand jury stating there is ample evidence of a defendant committing a crime to justify having a trial.

Injunction—order to prevent party(s) from taking action.

Plaintiff—individual or company that files a complaint.

Prosecute—act of charging an individual with a crime.

Tort—negligent or intentional injury against someone or something and is considered a civil problem not a criminal one.

Unlawful detainer action—lawsuit presented by a landlord against a tenant in order to evict them from the property.

Verdict—the conclusive decision by a trial jury or judge to decide the guilt or innocence of a criminal or the outcome of a civil case.

Voir dire—selection process for a jury to determine their qualifications.

Warrant—permission from the court to search or make an arrest.

Writ—a written directive instructing a person to either take or refrain from taking a specific act.


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