New System...

Solvitur Ambulando (We keep things moving)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z All

We thank Kieran Wood BL for giving us permission to reproduce an extract from the glossary of legal terms on his website.


This page will contain a glossary of legal and Debt Recovery terms.


Proceedings in a civil court

Administrative law

Law which applies to hearings before quasi-judicial or administrative tribunals. Such hearings must be conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice, such as audi alteram partem and nemo judex in sua causa.


Sworn written statement signed by a a deponent, who swears that its contents are true to the best of his knowledge and belief. It must be witnessed by a practising solicitor or commissioner for oaths.


Person with power to contract on behalf of others,binding them as if they were signing the contract themselves. The person represented by the agent is called the principal.


Postponement of a hearing by a Judge on whatever terms he sees fit.


Challenge to a court decision in a higher court.


The act of replying to a summons or turning up in court and accepting its jurisdiction to try proceedings. A barrister or solicitor may make an appearence on a client's behalf.


Specialist in litigation and advocacy who recieves instructions from a solicitor. Barristers may not normailly deal directly with members of the public.


Form of security for payment of a debt.

Circuit Court

Court above the District Court and below the High Court, with power to award damages up to €38,100.

Circuit Judge

Judge of the Circuit Court,addressed as "My Lord" whether male or female.

Common Law

Judge-made law which has developed over centuries,also referred to as "unwritten" law. Common law (as practised in Ireland, England and the USA) is often contrasted with civil law systems (such as in France or Germany) where laws are set down in a written code.


Legal entity which permits a group of shareholders to create an organisation to pursue set objectives. A company may have legal rights which are usually reserved for individuals, such as the power to sue and be sued,own property, hire employees or lend and borrow money. The main advantage of a company structure is that it gives shareholders a right  to participate in profits (through dividends) without any personal liability.

Consent Order

Court order agreed between both sides.


Agreement between two or more persons which obliges each party to do (or refrain from doing) a certain thing. A valid contract requires an offer , acceptance of that offer and consideration.

Contract law

Contract law is the basis of all commercial dealings. The terms of a contract may be express or implied. Expess provisions may be varied by statute. Unfair contract terms are now excluded by legislation, and, in areas such as employment and the sale of goods, the law imports a wide range of implied terms into new and existing contracts.


Written document transferring property from one person to another. Conveyances are usually drafted by solicitors.


The legal expenses of an action, such as lawyers' fees, witness expenses and other fees paid out in bringing the matter to court. The rule is generally that "costs follows the event", which means that the loser normally pays the legal costs of both sides. The judge has the final decision and may decide not to make an order on costs.




Respondent's claim against a plaintiff in the same action.


Person to whom money, goods or services are owed by a debtor.


Financial compensation ordered by a court to offset losses or suffering caused by another person's action or inaction. Damages are typically awarded in claims for breach of contract, negligence or breach of statutory duty.

De novo

Used to refer to a trial which begins all over again, as if any previous partial or complete hearing had not occurred. A District Court appeal is heard by the Circuit Court de novo, with the court considering afresh all the law and facts.


Person who owes money, goods or services to a creditor. If a court judgment has been registered against the person owing the money, he is known as a judgment debtor.


Response to claim by plaintiff.


Person, company or organization which defends a civil action taken by a plaintiff and against whom the court is asked to order damages or corrective action to redress some unlawful or improper action alleged by the plaintiff. Also a person charged with a criminal offence.


Person who swears an affidavit or deposition.


Sworn disclosure of documents and records. Certain types of document which are "privileged" need not be discovered, but they must be identified to the other side.

District Court

Lowest court in the Irish judicial system, with power to award damages up to €6,350 in civil cases.

District Judge

Judge of the District Court, addressed as "Judge".


Proportionate distribution of profits made by a company in the form of a money payment to shareholders. Dividends are declared by the board of directors at the annual general meeting. The shareholders decide the dividend at the meeting, but it must not exceed the directors' recommendation.


Writing on a document. With a bill of exchange, an endorsement is a signature on the back of the bill by which the person to whom the note is payable transfers the right of payment to the bearer or to a specific person. An endorsement may restrict payment to one person only, and prohibit any further endorsements.

Endorsement of claim

Concise summary of the facts supporting a legal claim.


The law of equity developed to temper the rigid interpretation given by medieval English judges to the common law. For hundreds of years, there were separate courts in Ireland for common law and equity (known as courts of Chancery). Where decisions conflicted, equity prevailed. In 1877, the two systems were merged. The principles of equity, based on fairness, include "equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy" and "equity looks on the intent, rather than the form".

Ex parte

Court application made without notice to the other side. One party is therefore neither present nor represented.


Document or object shown to a judge or jury as evidence in a trial. Each exhibit is given a number or letter as it is introduced, for future reference during the trial.

Fieri facias

A writ of fieri facias commands a sheriff to take and auction off property to pay a debt (plus interest and costs) owed by a judgment debtor.


Dishonest conduct designed to persuade another person to give something of value by lying, repeating something that is or ought to have been known by the fraudulent party to be false or suspect, or by concealing a relevant fact from the other party. Fraud allows a court to void a contract or to set aside a judgment, and can result in criminal liability. A person who defrauds creditors of a company may be held personally liable.


Person who owes a third party a debt which is attached by court order for the benefit of a judgment creditor.


Person who pledges collateral for another's contract.

High Court

Court above the Circuit Court with full jurisdiction to decide all matters of law and fact. High Court judges - male and female - are normally addressed as "My Lord".


Court order that forbids a party to do something (prohibitory injunction) or compels him to do something (mandatory injunction). It may be enforced by committal to prison for contempt.


Person not able to pay his debts as they become due. Insolvency is a prerequisite for bankruptcy.

Inter Partes

Latin: between the parties.

Interim Order

Temporary court order of very limited duration, usually until the court has heard the full facts of a case.

Interlocutory injunction

An injunction which lasts only until the end of the trial during which the order was sought, when it may be replaced by a permanent injunction.


A written confirmation of a debt, signed by the debtor, which implies an undertaking to pay the sum owed at some future date. An IOU is not a negotiable instrument and may not be passed on to a third party.

Judical Review

Proceedings in which a court is asked to rule on a decision of an administrative body or quasi-judicial tribunal. Judicial review is not usually limited to errors in law but may be based on alleged errors on findings of fact or unfair procedures. Judicial review proceedings may not be brought in the area of private law where the disputed decision is a matter of contract or agreement between two sides.

Junior counsel

Barrister who has not "taken silk" or been called to the Inner Bar.


Power of a judge or court to act, limited by a defined territory (the jurisdiction of the District Court is restricted to offences committed in that district), by the type of case (the jurisdiction of a criminal court is limited to criminal cases) or to certain persons (a court martial only has jurisdiction over military personnel).

Legal Aid

Government scheme providing advice or assistance from a solicitor or barrister free or at a reduced rate.

Legal professional privilege

Confidential communications between a lawyer and client may not be revealed in court unless the client, expressly or impliedly, waives the privilege. The communications must relate to court proceedings or intended litigation.


Any legal obligation or duty, now or in the future. A person who is liable for a debt or wrongful act is the person responsible for paying the debt or compensating for the wrongful act. If a court finds a person to be contributorily liable, he will bear part of the responsibility for the act or omission.


Permission to do something on or with someone else's property which, if it were not for the licence, could be legally prevented or could give rise to an action in tort or trespass. A common example is allowing a person to cross the licensor's lands, which would otherwise constitute trespass. Licences, unlike easements, may be revoked at will, unless supported by some form of payment or consideration. Licences which are not based on a contract and which are fully revocable are called simple or bare licences.

Limitation of actions

The Statute of Limitations sets down times within which proceedings must be brought. If no action is taken within the prescribed time limits, any future action is said to be statute-barred. In negligence claims, where there is no personal injury, the limit is six years. Where there is personal injury, the limit is three years (reduced to one year by the introduction of a bill in 2004). In a fatal injury case, it's three years from the date of death. In a claim involving breach of a simple contract (not under seal), the limit is six years. With personal injury arising from breach of contract, it's three years (or three years from the date of death). With a specialty contract (under seal), the period's 12 years, as it is for actions involving land. The maximum period for recovery of arrears of tax or rent is six years.


Sale of all the assets of a company or partnership by a liquidator and use of the proceeds to pay off creditors. Any money left over is distributed among shareholders or partners according to their interests or rights.


Form of alternative dispute resolution involving an agreed mediator acting as a facilitator to help the parties negotiate an agreement. The mediator does not adjudicate on the issues or force a compromise; only the parties involved can resolve the dispute. The result of a successful mediation is called a settlement.


Person under the age of 18 who is not married (or has not been married). A minor may only enter into certain contracts, such as those for necessaries or an apprenticeship. An Irish resident under the age of 18 may not legally marry without the permission of the Court, even if the ceremony takes place somewhere (such as Northern Ireland) where the minimum age for marriage is under 18.


False material statement which induces a party to enter into a contract; grounds for rescission of the contract.

Natural Justice

The requirement for application of the tenets audi alteram partem (hear the other side) and nemo judex in causa sua (no-one may be a judge in his own case). The principles of natural justice were derived from the Romans, who believed that some legal principles were natural or self-evident and did not need a statutory basis.

Natural Person

Human being with legal and Constitutional rights and duties, including the right to life, right to information, right to travel, right to a good name, right to earn a living, right to sue and be sued, to sign contracts, to receive gifts and to appear in court either by himself or through a lawyer. Individuals are persons in law unless they are minors or under some other type of incapacity, such as a court finding of mental incapacity. Contrast with a company, which is a legal person.


Carelessness. A person who owes a duty of care to someone else and breaches it by lack of reasonable care may be liable in damages for negligence. The negligence may involve a positive deed or a failure to act. If no damage results, there can be no action. The standard of care required is usually that of the reasonable man, but a person who claims to have special skills (such as a surgeon) owes a higher duty of care.


Definite proposal to contract which, if accepted, completes the contract and binds both the person that made the offer and the person accepting the offer to the terms of the contract. The offer may be express or implied. The person making the offer is called the offeror, and the person to whom the offer is made is the offeree.


Formal written direction by a judge. Once a final order is made, it may only be amended if there has been an accidental slip in the judgment.

Out-of-court settlement

Agreement between two litigants to settle a matter privately before a court has heard the matter or given its decision. Most personal injuries cases settle before reaching court.


Two or more persons carrying on a business together. Partners are each fully liable for all the debts of the enterprise but they also share the profits exclusively. Their rights are regulated by their partnership agreement.


Person to whom a bill of exchange is made payable. On an ordinary cheque, the name preceded by the words "pay to the order of" identifies the payee.


Person who makes a payment on a cheque or bill of exchange.

Personal Representative

Person who administers the estate of a deceased person. Where a person dies without a will, the court appoints an administrator. A personal representative named in a will is called an executor.


Person who brings a case to court. (Also called the petitioner or applicant.) The person being sued is generally called the defendant or respondent.


Written allegations or claims delivered by one claimant to another which formally set out the facts and legal arguments supporting his position. High Court pleadings might include an originating summons, statement of claim, defence, counterclaim and reply - or a petition and answer.

Power of attorney

Document under seal which gives a person the right to make binding decisions for another, as an agent. A power of attorney may be specific to a certain kind of decision or general, in which the agent makes all major decisions for the subject of the power of attorney.


Court judgment which is cited as an authority in a later case involving similar facts. Precedent cannot bind a higher court (for example, a Circuit Court decision cannot bind a High Court judge). A Supreme Court judgment binds all courts - although it does not bind the Supreme Court itself in future cases. The system of precedent forms the basis of the policy of stare decisis which helps litigants to predict the outcome of a case in a given situation.


Person from whom an agent has received instructions and for whose benefit the agent acts and makes decisions. The principal has a duty to pay the agent any agreed sum or commission, and to indemnify him against any losses in the course of his agency.

Probate law

That part of the law which regulates wills and other subjects related to the distribution of a deceased person's estate.

Promissory note

 Unconditional, written and signed promise to pay a certain amount of money on demand or at a certain defined date in the future. Unlike a bill of exchange, a promissory note is a promise - rather than an order - to pay.


Property is commonly thought of as something which belongs to a person and over which he has total control. But it is more correctly defined as a collection of legal rights over a thing. These rights are usually enforceable by the owner or the State against others. The most common classifications of property are between real or immovable property (such as land or buildings) and chattels or personal property (such as stock or a leasehold), and between public property (belonging to everybody or to the State) and private property.


Document or notice in which a company sets out details of a proposed share or bond issue, inviting the public to invest by purchasing the financial instruments. It must specify the nominal capital of the company, the names, addresses and descriptions of the directors, when the subscription lists open, the amount payable on application and on allotment of shares, and the rights in respect of different classes of share.


 Latin: amount or extent.

Quantum meruit

(Latin: as much as he has deserved) Principle stating that a person should not be obliged to pay (nor another allowed to receive) more than the value of the goods or services provided.

Quid pro quo

 (Latin: something for something) Giving something in exchange for something else. As consideration, it is an essential ingredient of a valid contract.


Repayment of a mortgage, so the equitable estate of the lender and the legal estate of the borrower merge in the mortgagor.

Reserved costs

Apportionment of payment of legal fees to be decided at a later stage.

Reserved judgement

 Decision to be given at a later date.


Place where someone usually - but not necessarily permanently - lives.


 Person against whom a summons is issued, or a petition or appeal brought.

Senior counsel

Barrister who has "taken silk" or been called to the Inner Bar.


Delivery of court documents by one party to the other, personally or by post.


Agreed compromise of proceedings.


 A portion of a company. A share certificate constitutes proof of share ownership. Those owning shares in a company are called members or shareholders. There are two basic kinds of shares: ordinary and preferred. A shareholder is not normally liable for the debts or other obligations of the company, except to the extent of any commitment made to buy shares. Two other benefits of shares include a right to participate in profits (through dividends) and a right to share the residue of assets of the company if it is dissolved, once liabilities have been paid off.

Silent partner

Person who invests in a company or partnership, shares in the profits or losses but takes no part in administering or directing the organisation.


General lawyer who may deal directly with the public.

Solvitur Ambulando

Solvitur Ambulando is latin for 'We keep things moving' and is the Deirdre K. Ryan & Co. Solicitors' motto for work ethic.

Strict liability

Liability in tort without need to prove wrongful intent, negligence or fault.

Substituted service

If a party appears to be avoiding service of legal documents, the court may be asked to direct that, instead of personal service (that is giving the documents directly to the person), they should be served in a different way, perhaps by posting them to the defendant's home or office or leaving them with a member of his family.


Written command to a person to appear in court.

Supreme court

Final court of appeal in Ireland, headed by the Chief Justice. Most appeals are on matters of law or procedure. The Supreme Court will not normally reverse a finding of fact by a lower court, unless the decision was so perverse that no ordinary person could have come to such a finding on the facts presented.


Non-contractual breach of duty which allows the injured person to claim compensation (or damages) from the tortfeasor. Torts include wrongs such as negligence, nuisance, defamation, false imprisonment and trespass.


Equitable right of a plaintiff to reclaim specific property, through the court, where the property has passed on to others. This procedure is frequently used by a trust beneficiary to recover misappropriated trust property. Property may not be recovered from a person who has bought it for value, without notice of the circumstances.


Enforceable promise given to court.


Alteration of term of court order.


Decision of a jury. In criminal cases, this is usually expressed as guilty or not guilty and may be unanimous or by a majority of 11-1 or 10-2. In a civil case, the verdict would be a finding for the plaintiff or for the defendant by at least nine of the 12 jurors.


Without legal effect. A document that is void is worthless. An anti-competitive agreement or contract in restraint of trade may be void. A "marriage" involving a person under the age of 18 would be void in Ireland.


The law distinguishes between void and voidable contracts. Some contracts have such a fundamental defect that they are said to be void. Others have more minor defects and are voidable at the option of the innocent party.


Renunciation of a right or benefit. Waivers are not always in writing. Sometimes actions can be interpreted as a waiver.

Words of limitation

Words in a conveyance or will which limit the duration of an estate. If a testator leaves property "to X and his heirs", the words "and his heirs" are words of limitation because they indicate that X gets the land in fee simple and his heirs get no interest.


When used without any other qualification, a 12-month period beginning on January 1.

Young person

Person under 16, whose regular, full-time employment is forbidden by the 1996 Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act. A child over 14 may do light work during school holidays, but a child under 14 cannot be employed at all.

Zero hours

If an employee is available for work but there is no work for him to do, the zero hours provision of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 requires the employer to compensate him for one quarter of the time for which he had to be available.



Page(s) 1 of 1