View Full Version : English legal terminology

01-28-2016, 04:09 AM
When we try criminal (civil, too, I guess) cases here we have a lead lawyer who's the "first chair" and a secondary lawyer who takes some witnesses, some arguments, but isn't lead. He's the "second chair." (Obviously!) I was wondering if those same phrases are used in the law courts in England, particularly in criminal cases?


01-28-2016, 08:55 AM
There's also the issue of "solicitors" and "barristers" in the U.K. I don't pretend to know the distinction, but that's one you should probably understand. Our British friends here should be able to elucidate.


01-28-2016, 02:02 PM
Solicitors are the guys with an office in the high street who deal with the legal side of buying your house and other family stuff. They are members of the Law Society. If you have an issue that is going to get tried in court they would approach a barrister for you. The barrister is a specialist and a member of the Bar Council - unless recently solicitors could not appear in courts higher than magistrates courts.
I think the phrase Mark Esq is looking for is 'junior'.

01-28-2016, 11:09 PM
It depends on the case too - as in murder at the Old Bailey, or arguing the toss about a driving conviction at the county court. You might just have the one person.

The senior barrister is likely to be a Queen's Council - QC. Also known as a "silk". Can't remember why, but that should give you some terms to google.

There are also solicitor advocates who appear in court. Not sure if that is the term for all solicitors who can appear in court.

In an episode of the "Good Wife" Will, one of the senior lawyers in a US law firm, appears via a skype sort of link in a UK court. And is hauled up by the judge for disrepect to the judge because he turned his back on the camera, and hence the judge. Seems to be no rule in US courts about "bodily position".

There is another difference with the US/UK system. We have the Crown Prosecution Service and barristers are hired by the case to appear for the CPS, they are not employees like district attorneys. It is considered good career development for a barrister to appear for both prosecution cases and defence cases and you won't make "silk" unless you can show a wide CV.

Incidentally, you could try watching the TV series, "Silks".

It looks fairly accurate to me as a layman, and shows the differences to the US system (which I only know through TV too).

You have said "English" - be aware that England and Wales have the same legal system, Scotland doesn't. It is similar in many ways, but has its own terms for people and has a third verdict - not proven.

01-29-2016, 02:12 AM
This is hopefully helpful, looks like it covers most of the key points anyway: