Legal Essentials for the Layperson

Statuatory history

Do you know what legal English is? Well, legal English is the specialized terminology that lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals use in the legal field. Some laypeople suspiciously contend that legal English is a bunch “legal mumbo jumbo” or jargon that is elitist in nature, and was developed to further marginalized people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The more radical postmodern feminists have asserted that the formal legal terminology used by legislative researchers to outline legal statutes is purposely complex to confuse the quotidian masses. The above individual view the overly, and overtly, sophisticated language used by lawmakers as a “power play” of sorts to maintain the gap between the intellectual elite and the less educated socioeconomic classes.

In reality, legal terminology that seems to hamper federal statutes and regulations is no more complex than the specialized language codes used in every other intellectually demanding discipline. Unlike biochemistry, nuclear physics, academic philosophy, psychology, or critical theory, however, legal terminology touches the lives of ordinary individuals every day.

For instance, the typical American citizen can go through life without any knowledge of Kantian epistemology or Kierkegaardian existentialism, but some understanding of legal terminology is valuable to anyone. While nobody without a law degree will ever be expected to possess the knowledge of a legal researcher, everybody should be familiar with at least basic legal language. After all, you never know when you might find yourself standing before a judge.

While it is unrealistic to expect laypeople to understand every legal statute on the state and federal law books, and to have the skill to conduct law research, it never hurts to know where to look for the answers. Even though you will always have an attorney to represent you, it is always in your best interest to have a clue what he or she is talking about.

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