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Understanding Legal Language

Have you ever had to read a legal document and did not understand what was being stated? This is a common problem for people who are not in the legal field, interested in law, or not in law school. Learning and understanding everyday legal language can make dealing with legal issues and interpreting them easier. Making legal language difficult to comprehend can also lead to things being interpreted incorrectly, which will cause confusion and frustration with an everyday person trying to figure things out.

Law is one of those areas that is not simplified. Much of legal terminology includes an abundance of latin phrases, which is not easily interpreted by an average person with no legal experience. In addition to not knowing the meaning of phrases, a client’s frustration level over a case might make it harder for them to fully grasp what is being stated. Here is a list of some latin legal terms that may not be easily understood my average client:

– Jurat means he swears”. It is usually used at the end of an affidavit stating a sworn oath is in place.

– Ultra vires means “beyond the powers”, or something is done that requires authority, but is done without any authoritative personnel.

– Scienter means “knowingly”. This is used when an action is done with full awareness.

– Lacunae means “void” or a “gap”, where there are no laws in place. This is usually used with international law situations.

– Vir and uxor mean “husband” and “wife”. These words are used in place of the individual’s name in the document.

In this TED talk, Alan Siegel speaks about the importance of simplifying legal language for the better:

What do you think about the complexity of legal jargon? Have you dealt with confusing legal documents that were unintelligible?

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