The language of the courtroom is often accused of being exclusionary because of its many terms reserved for those qualified to use them. From counterclaiming and counsel to privilege and proceedings, you’d be forgiven for any confusion or misunderstanding. For many, law jargon is just that: a collection of terms that aren’t meant for them.

However, if you’re soon to attend court then you’ll need to know what these terms mean. Our guide to litigation terminology gives clear, concise definitions.

Basic legal terms explained


This is the name given to the process the Court takes in deciding how a case should be dealt with. The Court has different procedures for claims of different value and complexity. Allocation is often the first step that the Court takes once a claim becomes defended and the parties will be asked to complete questionnaires to allow the Court to make a decision. The case is then allocated to either Small Claims, Fast Track, or Multi-Track.

Alternative dispute resolution

Alternative dispute resolution is a dispute resolution process which does not require the parties involved to attend court. It is a confidential and alternative means of resolving legal disputes. The most common types of alternative dispute resolution are mediation, arbitration, and adjudication.


Once judgement has been passed, a party can appeal the decision if there exists strong and valid reasoning against why the judgement could be legally wrong or unjust.


A claimant is the person making the claim to go to court.


Costs are simply the legal costs of bringing a claim to court. Costs range from legal advisors like solicitors, to the costs of having an expert witness.


Counsel is the term often used to refer to a barrister who is instructed to provide advice to a party during the litigation process or to attend at Court hearings on their behalf.


A counterclaim is a claim brought forward by the defendant to combat the initial claim made by the claimant. An example of this is where the Claimant pursues a Defendant for a sum of money but the Defendant also considers that they are owed monies by the Claimant.

Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)

These are the rules that govern the court process in civil claims. Different rules apply to criminal and family proceedings.


Damages are monetary compensation awarded to cover any loss and damage that has been suffered.


The defence is the written argument put forward by the defendant. The defence sets out which areas of the Particulars of Claim that the defendant admits to or disputes.


Disclosure is where one party notifies the other party of all the documents they have in relation to the claim and its court proceedings. During Court proceedings the parties will usually provide each other with lists of the documents they intend to rely on and the other party can then request to see them and they will then be provided. Disclosure can also occur before any Court proceedings are started.

Expert witness

An expert witness is a party independent of the case in question and who can provide an opinion based on their expertise in relation to the case’s subject. This could mean a doctor providing a medical report or a surveyor providing a report on the condition of a property or position of a boundary.


Indemnity is an expressed obligation to compensate for some defined loss or damage by making a payment to the other party.


An injunction is an order that can be made by a court to restrain a party from taking a certain action. Injunctions can also force a party into taking action.


Inspection is where a party inspects the documents provided in the list of disclosure by the other party. It is the process by which documents are requested and then provided.


Mediation is where an independent party is appointed to assist the parties in trying to reach a settlement of the dispute. This is separate from any court proceedings and usually cannot be referred to at Court. Mediation can take place before or during court proceedings.

Part 36 Offer

A Part 36 Offer is a ‘without prejudice’ offer, which means that the offer cannot be referred to by either party in court before the court has made its final judgement. This refers to the particular rule in the Civil Procedure Rules which provides for these types of offer.

Particulars of Claim

Particulars of Claim refers to the document setting out the facts in the claimant’s claim.


Privilege is attributed to certain documents which means that the party owning the documents can refuse inspection of the documents. A privileged document is for nobody’s eyes but its owners.


This is the name given to the process of a claim, from the initial stage of filling out a claim form straight through to the trial.


This refers to the document completed by the claimant responding to the defence filed by the defendant.


Service is the term given to the act of providing all involved parties with documents related to your claim or defence.

Statements of Case

This simply refers to the Particulars of Claim as well as the Defence and Reply.

Statements of Truth

Many legal documents need to be verified with regard to truthfulness and honesty. The initial claim form is a prime example where the person signing it must verify that they’re telling the whole truth as they know it.

Witness statements

Witness statements are simply statements from people able to give evidence on the claim.

Are you involved in a dispute?

If you are involved in a dispute, even the most basic understanding of the above terminology could prove influential in winning your case. With the expert guidance of our dispute resolution team, you can rest assured that you’ll be in safe hands.

For more insight into dispute resolution, take a look at our blog.