Question of the Week

What's Your Favorite Legal Word?

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A few months ago our favorite grammar blog (we’re journalists, what do you expect?) asked readers their picks for the coolest word in the English language. That made us wonder: What’s your favorite legal word?

We asked some lawyers and law bloggers what their picks were.

In pari delicto, says New York City lawyer Josh Warren, who pens the ZombieLaw blog. “It’s a delicious legal phrase that literally means ‘in equal fault.’ It is a doctrine in equity related to the doctrine of unclean hands (think: Lady Macbeth or like a ‘pot calling a kettle black’). Judge Richard Posner even used the term evil zombies in Scholes v. Lehmann in 1995.

Deemed, votes Sullivan & Cromwell’s Frank Aquila. According to the Legal Rebel, deemed is a word that every lawyer uses, but few actually recognize the full import of what they are really saying. “When a lawyer says that one thing is deemed to be something else, the lawyer is essentially articulating a legal fiction. If it was not legal fiction it would not be deemed anything.”

Res judicata is Keith Jaasma’s favorite five-syllable term; qualified immunity is his favorite seven-syllable word. “I am still waiting for the elusive case in which I could use both in a haiku,” says Jaasma, who writes the Supreme Court Haiku Reporter blog.

“I’ve always liked the friendly ring of amicus brief,” says Kashmir Hill, who authors Forbes’ The Not-So Private Parts blog and is a former Above the Law blogger.

Hung jury was more useful when it came to cracking jokes at Above the Law, she quips.

So tell us your favorite legal word or term in the comments below.

Read the answers to last week’s question: What Steps Do You Take to Make Sure You Have Positive, Productive Interactions with Your Clients?

Featured answer:

Posted by KM: “I represent mainly criminal defendants. I get to know them as a person and let them know that I work for them and have their back. If they are not denying their alleged criminal actions, I first get to the root of the problem and figure out why they acted the way they did. If they see that I am helping them with the cause of the behavior and not just the punishment that lies ahead, they trust me more and appreciate my efforts which is the best ingredient to a healthy attorney-client relationship.”

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