Legal Lingo

Hands down the worst part about law school for me was learning all the new language I needed to know to understand what was going on. Things like motions in limine and subrogation have thrown me off my entire legal career. I still run into legal words that I have no idea what they mean and have to spend a ton of time just understanding what they mean to get what I need to learn from my classes. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of words I still don’t understand 4 semesters into law school:

1. Subrogation-I’m not even going to try. We talk about this in payment systems all the time and I still only half understand what’s going on. (Apparently, it means: assuming the legal rights of a person for whom expenses or a debt has been paid)

2. Ad Hoc-I really should understand this since we talked about it a lot in undergrad and now in admin law. (This means: “for this purpose only” in Latin)

3. Parens Patriae-I guess its: Latin for “father of his country,” the term for the doctrine that the government is the ultimate guardian of all people under a disability, especially children, whose care is only “entrusted” to their parents.

4. En Banc-It has something to do with hearing a case but I couldn’t tell you what.  (French for “in the bench,” it signifies a decision by the full court of all the appeals judges in jurisdictions where there is more than one three- or four-judge panel)

So four semesters in and things that I should know as far as words go, I don’t. Luckily, there are things like Blacks Law Dictionary and Google to help figure these things out. Learning the legal lingo is just as difficult as learning a second language like Spanish or French, at least in my mind. There is a completely new set of vocabulary, cases are written in a sophisticated, educated language, and sometimes words that we no longer use are put in decisions. It’s not easy adjusting to a new language and even as a 2L I’m still learning new words. There’s nothing wrong with having to look up words until you understand what they say. Don’t be afraid of the new legal lingo you’ve thrown yourself into by going into law. It’s hard and you may not know words until you’ve used them a million times. No one expects an expert right off the bat.