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Law Dictionary: Law School Terms 101

Law is riddled with jargon and unusual law terms. Our Law Dictionary covers everything you'll need to know as a prospective law student.

Dec 7, 2023
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Law dictionary - highlighting the word Law

Studying law

  • 1L: A first-year law student
  • 2L: A second-year law student
  • 3L: A third-year law student
  • Bar Exam: A mandatory examination for law graduates to become licensed lawyers.
  • Black’s Law Dictionary: A widely recognized legal dictionary used for defining legal terms.
  • BlueBook: A guide for legal citation widely used in the legal profession.
  • CALI: An non-profit organization known for its legal education lessons and tutorials, mainly used by U.S. law schools.
  • Case Book: A textbook in law school containing a collection of court cases.
  • Case Brief: A summary of a legal case including key facts, issues, and rulings.
  • Clinic: Practical legal training involving real cases under professional supervision.
  • Hypo (Hypothetical): An imaginary scenario often used in legal education to illustrate legal principles.
  • IRAC (Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion): A common structure for legal writing and analysis.
  • Law Review/Law Journal: Scholarly publications managed by law students.
  • Lexis/Westlaw: Major online legal research databases.
  • Moot Court: Simulated court proceedings for educational purposes.
  • MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam): An ethics exam for law students.
  • Outline: A study tool for organizing and synthesizing class information.
  • Study Aid/Supplement: Books used alongside casebooks to understand legal concepts.

Areas of law

  • Criminal Law: Crimes and criminal offenses, including theft, murder, assault, and other illegal activities.
  • Civil Law: Disputes between individuals or organizations and seeks to provide remedies for damages suffered.
  • Family Law: Issues related to marriage, divorce, child custody, and adoption.
  • Employment Law: The relationship between employers and employees, including wages, working conditions, and discrimination.
  • Contract Law: Deals with the formation, interpretation, and enforcement of contracts between individuals or businesses.
  • Property Law: Issues related to property ownership, transfer, and use, including real estate, personal property, and intellectual property.
  • Tax Law: Focuses on the laws and regulations governing taxation, including income tax, sales tax, and property tax.
  • Environmental Law: Deals with regulations and policies aimed at protecting the planet.
  • Intellectual Property Law: Protects the rights of individuals or businesses to their creative works, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
  • Immigration Law: Covers issues related to immigration, citizenship, and refugee status.
  • Maritime Law: Deals with legal matters concerning ships, shipping, and navigation.
  • Health Law: Legal issues surrounding healthcare, including patient rights, medical malpractice, and insurance coverage.
  • Education Law: Covers matters related to school policies, student rights, and educational institutions' obligations.
  • Bankruptcy Law: Deals with the legal processes and procedures for individuals or businesses seeking to declare bankruptcy.
  • International Law: Deals with legal issues that arise between different countries, including treaties and trade agreements.
  • Sports Law: Covers legal matters related to sports organizations, athletes' contracts, and anti-doping regulations.
  • Elder Law: Addresses legal issues unique to older adults, such as estate planning and long-term care.
  • Animal Law: Focuses on the legal rights and responsibilities of animals and their owners, including animal welfare laws and pet ownership disputes.
  • Aviation Law: Deals with legal matters related to air travel, including safety regulations and liability for accidents.
  • Cyber Law: Covers legal issues related to the internet, such as data privacy, cybercrime, and intellectual property rights in digital media.

Legal procedures and court structure

  • Affirm: To uphold a lower court's decision by an appellate court.
  • Appellant: A party appealing a lower court's decision.
  • Appellee: The party against whom an appeal is filed.
  • Appellate Court: Courts that hear appeals from lower court decisions.
  • Conclusory Statement: A statement in legal writing lacking proper analysis.
  • Defendant: The party being sued in a civil case or accused in a criminal case.
  • Dissent: A disagreement with a majority opinion in a court case.
  • Holding: The court's decision on a specific legal issue.
  • Petitioner: Someone who initiates a legal appeal or petition.
  • Plaintiff: The party initiating a lawsuit.
  • Prosecutor: A lawyer who brings charges against a defendant in a criminal case.
  • Respondent: The party against whom a petition is filed.
  • Reverse: When an appellate court overturns a lower court's decision.

The legal system

There are different types of legal systems, depending on the countries or regions they are implemented in.

The legal system is the set of laws, regulations and procedures that govern a society or country. It serves as a framework for resolving disputes, maintaining order and protecting the rights of individuals within a society.

Some types of legal systems include:

  • Common law system: This is based on precedents established by past court decisions, rather than written laws or codes. It originated in England and has been adopted by countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.
  • Civil law system: This is based on written laws and codes that outline specific rules for different areas of law. It is prevalent in most European countries, Latin American countries, and parts of Asia.
  • Religious law system: This is based on religious texts and teachings and is used in countries with a dominant religion such as Islamic law in Middle Eastern countries.
  • Customary law system: This is based on the customs and traditions of a particular society or community and is often used in smaller communities or tribal societies.

You can find a more comprehensive list of the legal systems in various countries on the CIA website.

Keystone Team


The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.