Navigating Legal Language: Why Understanding Legal Terms is Essential for Every Australian

Here’s an introduction to some of the top legal terms commonly used in Australia, presented in a list format. 

Understanding these terms can be very helpful in navigating legal documents or discussions.

Top 10 Legal Terms Used in Australia

  1. Plaintiff – The person or entity who initiates a lawsuit by filing a complaint against another party (the defendant) in a civil court.

  2. Defendant – The person, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law. In civil cases, the defendant is the party being sued, whereas in criminal cases, they are the individual accused of a crime.

  3. Barrister – A type of lawyer specializing in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings, and giving expert legal opinions. They are typically retained by a solicitor to represent a case in court.

  4. Solicitor – A lawyer who provides expert legal advice and support to clients. Solicitors often undertake transactions and cases on behalf of their clients, but they do not represent them in court; that role is usually filled by a barrister.

  5. Affidavit – A written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.

  6. Indictable Offence – A serious criminal offense that requires a formal trial by jury. Examples include robbery, assault, and murder. These offenses are more severe than summary offences.

  7. Summary Offence – A criminal offense that is generally less serious than indictable offences, handled by a judge without a jury and which carries a shorter maximum penalty. Examples include traffic violations and minor theft.

  8. Tort – A civil wrong or breach of duty leading to civil legal liability. This term encompasses actions not involving a contract that result in harm or injury to another person or their property, and for which the court provides a remedy in the form of an action for damages.

  9. Jurisdiction – The official power to make legal decisions and judgments, often within a defined area of responsibility. The term can refer to the geographical area or the types of cases that a court has the authority to hear.

  10. Prima Facie – A Latin term meaning “on its face” or “at first sight.” Legal professionals use it to refer to the presentation of sufficient evidence by a civil claimant to support the legal claim (a case “at first glance”).

These terms are foundational in many legal contexts, and familiarity with them can be particularly useful in legal studies or when dealing with legal matters in Australia.


If this article has inspired you to think about your own unique situation and, more importantly, what you and your family are going through right now, please contact your advice professional.

This information does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any person. Before making a decision, you should consider whether it is appropriate in light of your particular objectives, financial situation or needs.

(Feedsy Exclusive)

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