UW Law School Jargon

The Utterly Unofficial and Incomplete Guide to UW Law School Jargon



amicus curiae: Latin, “friend of the court”; a person/group that presents a legal brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of a party

appellant: person who files an appeal of a court judgment; usually the party that lost in the lower court

appellate: referring to appeals; any court of law empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal

appellee: opponent of an appeal; usually the party that won in the lower court


Bar Review: the every-Thursday-nightly law student social gathering at a local establishment serving fine spirits and brews; during school year

Barrister’s Ball: “law school prom” held in the spring, usually early April

Black’s: the most widely used law dictionary in the U.S.; useful tool

black letter law: basic principles of law generally accepted by the courts and/or embodied in the statutes of a particular jurisdiction

: a nonprofit business formerly located on the 2nd floor of the law school (in the space DoIT now occupies) which sold law textbooks and materials. It closed in the summer of 2014, and students now get books from the University Bookstore

briefing (a case): summary of facts, issue presented, holding and reasoning of a case; important study tool

brief (appellate): a formal written legal argument presented to a reviewing court for the purpose of persuading a higher court to uphold or reverse a decision; presents issues in the case in light of favorable law in the circuit in which the case is held, although relevant and/or controlling unfavorable law will often be presented in anticipation of counterarguments


cane toss: Law School tradition in which graduating 3Ls toss canes in the air during the Homecoming football game; lore holds that if they catch them, they will win their first case

casebook: law school texbooks

certiorari: Latin, "to be informed of"; Supreme Court review of a final appellate decision; requested by a writ of certiorari

: experiential learning programs offered at many law schools focusing on application of legal theory to the provision of free legal services under mentorship of faculty and/or practicing attorneys; unique opportunity to earn course credit while developing substantive knowledge and professional skills

code: refers to statutes organized by subject matter

common law: law developed by through judicial decisions of cases rather than legislative process or executive branch action; precedent that binds future decisions in similar disputes (also see: stare decisis)

civil law: concerns typically private litigation involving civil, or private, rights and remedies; less severe punishments than crimes

: located on the 2nd floor of the law school in the DoIT suite; offers copying, scanning, binding/unbinding, lamination for a modest fee

criminal law: concerns prosecution by the government for acts classified as crimes; involves more severe punishments including incarceration


Dean’s Cup: annual charitable competition between UW medical and law students; events include sports, cards, board games, trivia, baking, Salvation Army blood drive, T-shirt sales, and food drive

dicta: part of a judicial opinion that is a judge's editorializing; nonbinding information/explanation

Diploma Privilege: course, grade, and character and fitness requirements which, if fulfilled, allow admission to practice law in Wisconsin without taking a bar exam; Wisconsin is the only state to retain this privilege; law students should consult Read This First! handbook and meet with the Law School Registrar to verify proper course enrollment

doctrine: principle of common law; established through past decisions

due process: 14th Amendment Constitutional guarantee of the basic right to protection against deprivation of 'life, liberty or property, without due process of law'; courts have issued numerous rulings about what this means in particular cases; usually entails a process for fair and consistent legal proceedings


Economic Justice Institute (EJI): the Economic Justice Institute is UW Law School's clinical education program dedicated to providing legal services to low-income and under-represented clients in matters involving access to social justice and economic security, including the Consumer Law Clinic, the Family Court Clinic, Neighborhood Law Clinic and Immigrant Justice Clinic


FJR: the Frank J. Remington Center is a law-in-action clinical program at UW Law School consisting of several projects dedicated to criminal justice


gargoyle: UW Law School symbol and mascot


holding: court's final determination of a matter of law based on the issue presented in the particular case


infra: term used in legal writing meaning that the full citation will appear subsequently

IRAC: method of legal writing; issue presented, rule of law, analysis, and conclusion


jurisprudence: philosophy of law; may influence a judge’s legal reasoning, view of the role of legal systems/institutions



law-in-action: UW Law School’s educational philosophy; focuses on how the law actually works in society and relates to social change; goal is to develop well-educated, thoughtful graduates who can successfully bridge the gap between law school theory and practice

Law Review: student-run journal published 6 times a year of professional and student articles on local, state, national, and international issues in contemporary law; students qualify through a "write-on" at end of 1L year

LEO (Legal Education Opportunities): UW Law School program designed to recruit/retain students of color and other traditionally disadvantaged groups, increasing their numbers within the legal profession and providing an academic and social support network for members while in law school

Lexis/Nexis: online subscription-based legal research service; searchable database including federal and state case law, statutes, and administrative, regulatory, and secondary materials; every UW law student is provided a free Lexis account and training (also see: Westlaw)

LL.M: Master of Laws; research and writing program for students who have already have a U.S. law degree or an equivalent degree from a non-U.S. institution; useful for those planning careers as legal scholars or researchers; no course work

LL.M, Legal Institutions: 24-credit course-based interdisciplinary program designed for individuals who have received law degrees from non-U.S. universities


Med/Law Bash (formerly the Malpractice Bash): a semi-formal event sponsored by the UW Student Bar Association and Medical Students Association held at the Memorial Union Great Hall in late fall as the culmination of the Dean's Cup Law/Med collaboration.

Moodle: a web-based course management system that allows students and professors to share information and collaborate online

mock trial: experiential learning club focused on honing skills of trial advocacy and procedure, including opening/closing statements, witness examination, trial preparation, rules of evidence; students must qualify through try-outs in the fall; earn credit, opportunity to compete on local, regional, and national levels

moot court: experiential learning club focused on honing skills of appellate brief-writing and oral argument; students must qualify through try-outs in the spring; earn credit, opportunity to compete on local, regional, and national levels



OCI: on-campus interviewing; on-campus recruitment programs for 2- and 3Ls; law firms, government agencies, public interest employers and corporate legal departments from various cities conduct screening interviews for summer/permanent employment


petitioner: party bringing a civil action or appeal or who, upon losing on appeal, petitions for review (writ of certiorari) of the decision by the Supreme Court

probate: legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing property under a valid will; court that oversees a probate or intestate process; related to trust and estate planning

procedural law: law concerned with fair and consistent process for carrying out substantive laws


QLaw: UW Law School student organization dedicated to serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community


Read This First!: a must-read collection of practical information for UW law students, including important JD and Diploma Privilege requirements worksheets

respondent: party responding to a civil action, or who, upon winning, becomes the party defending review by a higher court

restatements: non-binding academic treatises created by the American Law Institutes with the purpose of summarizing and clarifying bodies of common law such as contracts or torts


SBA: self-governing organization to serve the interests of UW law students; comprised of 7 representatives from each class, an elected president, and 2 elected vice-presidents

Sophie's: café located on the 2nd floor of the law school off the atrium selling coffee, beverages, snacks

Socratic method: teaching method utilized by many law professors consisting of identifying better hypotheses by steadily questioning, identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions; terrifying process for most 1Ls that usually becomes less intimidating when students realize that half the class is distracted and the other half is surprisingly nonjudgmental

statutory law: written law passed by a legislature, as opposed to regulatory law promulgated by the executive branch or common law of the judiciary

Stuart’s Law Review: student-organized spring tradition at UW Law involving musical, comedic, or sketch performances mocking law school and lawyers

substantive law: body of law that defines, creates or confers legal rights/status, or imposes and defines the nature/extent of legal duties (as opposed to procedural law, which determines the process followed to protect substantive rights)

stare decisis: Latin; "to stand by that which is decided"; principle of precedent; prior decisions are to be followed by the courts when faced with similar situations; objective is predictability and stability in the law and legal system

supra: term used in legal writing that means the full citation appears earlier

Symplicity: web-based job bank exclusively for UW Law students maintained by the Career Services Office; students can access up-to-date information on full- and part-time, summer, school year and post-graduation employment


tort: body of law that addresses and provides remedies for civil wrongdoings not arising out of contractual obligations; defines what constitutes a legal injury and establishes the circumstances under which a person may be held liable for another's injury due to their intentional or negligent acts




Westlaw: online subscription-based legal research database, similar to Lexis/Nexis; all UW law students receive a free account and training during school




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