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10 Legal Terms to Know Before Meeting With Lawyers

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So you’re sitting across a lawyer, and they’re throwing words like affidavit and pro se. You nod, but deep down you don’t know what they mean. In the legal world, lawyers and lawsuits have their language. Sometimes lawyers forget that clients are unfamiliar with some of the legal jargon they use. Fear not because this article discusses ten legal terms before meeting with lawyers across many areas of law. Let’s dive in and make sense of those legal words together!

1. Counsel

When meeting with a lawyer, the term counsel often arises. It refers to the legal representative who provides guidance and advice in legal matters. Counsel also refers to guidance or advice offered by a legal professional. For example, you may seek counsel from an attorney to understand the adoption process.

There are two types of counsel; lawyers and non-lawyer counsel. Lawyers are individuals trained and licensed to practice in law. Their duty is to represent clients in legal proceedings such as hearings, trials, and negotiations. They also provide legal advice and draft legal documents on behalf of their clients.

Non-lawyer counsel refers to individuals not licensed to practice law but can offer specialized legal advice. Examples of non-lawyer counsels include paralegals, legal consultants, and advocates. According to the OBA organization, non-lawyers only work in cases concerning immigration, patents, business advertising, and tax.

Non-lawyer counsel serves as a bridge between the client and legal professionals. They are more social workers, assisting clients with their non-legal needs. For example, they can simplify complex legal jargon for you.

2. Affidavit

Another term you should know before meeting with lawyers is an affidavit. It is a written and sworn statement of facts voluntarily made by an individual in a legal context. It is a formal document to present evidence or information to a court or government agency.

An affidavit is like making a promise in writing, where you swear that what you say is true. People who write affidavits want to prove something to the court in a legal way. For example, when you want to protect a child from an abusive parent. If you lie in your affidavit, you risk losing your case or facing prosecution for perjury.

Here is how you should write an affidavit. First, write a title for the document – for example, Affidavit of Joy Elizabeth. Next, clearly describe yourself (birthdate, address, etc.). After this, you should draft the statement of truth. This is where you swear that the information in the document is true.

You should also include a statement of facts; use legally significant facts. Next, you should draft a closing statement of truth where you swear again that the information is to the best of your knowledge. Lastly, you should sign and notarize and include your witness’s signature. You can contact your attorney to review your affidavit and advise you accordingly.

meeting with lawyers

3. Pro Se

Pro se is a Latin word meaning ‘for himself.’ You should familiarize yourself with this term before meeting with lawyers. It means representing yourself in a legal proceeding without the help of a lawyer or an attorney.

Civil cases are straightforward and don’t always require a lawyer to represent you in court. However, consulting a bankruptcy law office is the best option for cases such as bankruptcy law. According to a study carried out by GWU law school, 70 to 90% of civil cases nationwide have pro se litigants.

If you decide to go pro se, the court won’t appoint counsel. Don’t worry though. If you plan to go pro se for your civil case, here is what you should do.

First, read the pro se handbook by the Unite to learn how to file your case. Also, read the local rules of practice for the state you are in. This will help you familiarize yourself with the procedural rules you must follow throughout your lawsuit. You should also research the consequences of failing to respond to the motion. Typically, the clerk’s office will provide you with procedural assistance but know that they can only offer legal advice.

4. Standard of Proof

Another term you should be familiar with before meeting with lawyers is the standard of proof. It refers to how strong your evidence must prove the offender guilty. To satisfy this standard, you need the burden of truth known as Onus.

The burden of truth for criminal cases is on the prosecution, meaning they must have strong evidence to prove the person guilty.
In civil cases, the claimant has the burden of truth – they must provide convincing evidence to support their claim. For example, a criminal DUI law firm must present compelling evidence to establish the accused’s guilt.

The standard of proof varies in different legal settings. In criminal trials, the highest standard of proof is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ This means that the evidence presented must leave no doubt in the mind of the jurors about the defender’s guilt.

Civil cases generally use the standard of ‘preponderance of the evidence.’ This means the side with stronger and more convincing evidence will likely win. According to Cornell Law School, the claimant meets the burden of truth if they convince the fact finder that there is a 50% probability that the claim is true.

5. Estate

In law, estate refers to a person’s legal and financial possessions, assets, and interests. It encompasses various property and rights an individual owns or has a legal interest in. Understanding this term is important, especially when meeting with lawyers.

You’ll encounter this term if your case revolves around wills, trusts, and estate planning. Estate planning is a crucial aspect of financial management. It involves strategizing to minimize taxes and ensure a smooth transfer of wealth to heirs and beneficiaries.

Navigating these intricacies requires legal expertise to ensure your estate complies with relevant laws. Elder care attorneys, for instance, can help if you’re working on drafting a will and trust. These professionals specialize in legal matters affecting seniors and can guide you through the complexities of estate planning. Attorneys specializing in estate law also help to create a plan that aligns with your goals and protects the future of your loved ones.

6. Guardianship

If you are meeting with lawyers to discuss the well-being of your loved ones, you’ll encounter the word guardianship. So, what is guardianship? Guardianship entails the court giving legal authority to make decisions and care for another person. For example, a disabled person, a child, or an older adult.

According to the United States Department of Justice, guardianship is under state laws. However, each state has its own unique set of guardian laws. How does one become a legal guardian, then?

You have to be a competent adult to become a legal guardian. Guardians are typically close relatives of the victim, for example, the grandparents, older sibling, or uncle. When many people apply to become legal guardians to someone, the court decides who is best suited for the position.

When examining the appointment of a guardian, the court looks into several factors. It examines the potential guardian’s available time to determine if they meet the ward’s needs. Additionally, they examine the financial stability of the guardian to ensure they can support the person.

Additionally, the court checks for any criminal convictions that could affect the guardian’s suitability. The health status and mental competence of the potential guardian are also evaluated. The court officials look into all these factors to ensure the person is well cared for, particularly in elder law.

So, how does one cease to be a guardian then? Guardianship normally ends when an individual dies. However, the court can terminate the guardianship when the person’s condition improves, and they don’t need someone to care for them. The court may terminate guardianship when the person proves they can care for themselves.

meeting with lawyers

7. Damages

In law, damages refer to compensation awarded to a party who has suffered harm or loss due to the other party’s negligence or legal wrongdoing. There are different types of damages including nominal, punitive, liquidated, general, and compensatory. When meeting with lawyers, you discuss the damages incurred to get financial reparation. To get compensation, you’ll need to prove that you suffered injury or loss due to the breach committed by the defendant.

Let’s say you got involved in a car accident, for instance, due to another driver’s reckless behavior. You might seek compensatory damages to cover medical expenses, vehicle repair costs, and income loss due to injuries.

Your traffic violation lawyers should present evidence, such as medical records and photos of the accident scene to establish the extent of injuries and loss. Proving damages is difficult, so you need to hire an attorney. This is because damages such as emotional distress or pain and suffering are subjective, making it hard to quantify them.

8. Docket

When meeting with lawyers in court regarding a family matter, you probably don’t realize you are in a docket. So what is the meaning of a docket? According to the United States Glossary of Legal Terms, a docket is a log with each case’s history. It is in the form of a chronological list or register of legal proceedings and cases. The docket includes essential details listed below.

  1. Case numbers
  2. Parties involved
  3. Important dates
  4. Motions filed
  5. Hearings scheduled

The court clerks maintain the docket and make it available for public viewing. The docket helps lawyers and judges stay organized, ensuring proceedings unfold smoothly. Also, it helps the parties involved prepare and present their hearings or other legal proceedings.

One of the areas where dockets play a crucial role is foreclosure law. This law deals with a lender reclaiming a property due to the borrower’s inability to make mortgage payments. The docket outlines the sequence of actions taken, such as notices sent to the borrower, court filings, and auction dates.
Today, you can assess the court docket online to save time rather than traveling to court and waiting in line a whole day.

9. Discovery

How do you know whether to proceed with a case or not? For instance, they will talk about discovery when meeting with insurance claim dispute attorneys. What does discovery mean in law?

Discovery is the process of gathering information and evidence before a trial commences. There are three types of discovery; written, oral, and third-party. Written discovery involves sending questions (interrogatives) to the opposing party, requesting them to admit or deny the facts (request for admission).

It also involves asking for specific documents (requests for production). According to Cornell Law School, you should respond to interrogations within 30 days of service. Failure to do so, the board deems the matter as admitted.

The second type of discovery is oral discovery. It includes taking sworn statements from involved individuals (deposition), recording their testimony for the court (sworn testimony), or capturing their statements on video. Third-party discovery entails obtaining information from non-involved individuals or entities through subpoenas or written/oral requests. The purpose of discovery is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the parties involved. It also facilitates trial preparation by enabling lawyers to gather evidence, locate witnesses, and refine their legal strategies.

10. Warranty

Lastly, you should know the meaning of the term warranty before meeting with lawyers. Warranty refers to a seller’s legal commitment to a buyer regarding the quality or performance of a product or property. There are two types of warranties; implied and express.

Implied warranties apply to most products and real estate transactions. This warranty indicates that the sold item should work reasonably and meet quality standards.
On the other hand, express warranties are explicit pledges made by the seller, often covered by laws like the Magnuson-Moss Act.

The act ensures that sellers provide accurate and clear warranty information. It also prohibits dishonest practices, including disclaiming implied warranties. You may want to plead for bail if you are in warranty-related cases. A bail bond lawyer can provide valuable advice and negotiate your case.

So there you have it! The legal world may have unique words, but you’re no longer on the sidelines. Armed with these 10 legal words, you can confidently enter the lawyer’s office. Remember, understanding these terms shows off your legal prowess and makes you actively participate in your legal journey.

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