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Law Student to English Dictionary

English dictionary book

Starting law school can be hard at the best of times. It doesn't help that all of a sudden you're bombarded with all this legal jargon no one bothers to explain, a bunch of readings, and a an essay due next week. What's worse is you start hearing students around you dropping terms that you think, might, somehow, may be relate to your studies, but you can't be sure.

So here is some stuff that you might want to know, should know and need to know...

Academic Misconduct

Not good. Academic misconduct is any type of cheating that occurs in relation to a formal academic exercise. It can include plagiarism, fabrication, deception, cheating, bribery, sabotage etc. you get the drift. The penalties can be severe and long lasting. Each university has its own policy regarding academic misconduct. If you're going to do something that you're not sure about, I suggest you read the policy before you do (giving your friend your assignment, even though you just want to help, will not end well for either of you). You will also be alerted to it before exams. And remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Don't do it, it's simply not worth it.

Case Note

Case notes are used as a method of analysis to help understand a case or judgment. It can be a quick referencing guide which can help you identify the ratio and obiter, and help understand the importance of the case. A case note often includes the case name and reference, a succinct summary of the facts, the ratio and a critical analysis of the decision in light of existing law. They can be assessed at uni, written by law firms, or condensed to put in your exam notes – the possibilities are endless!


Pronounced ‘clarkship’. Clerkships are paid holiday work experience placements in major commercial law firms for Australian law students in their penultimate (second last) year of study. It is the primary method used by participating law firms to identify and secure talented students for graduate positions. Apart from being a primary method of employment for many firms, it is also a fantastic way to gain an insight into day-to-day professional legal practice.

Law Reports

Law reports are series of books that contain the case law decided by courts. When a case is reported in a law report, the report in which the case is printed will determine the case citation, for eg Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd v Amadio (1983) 151 CLR 447, where you have the year, the volume, the law report (CLR) and the page the case starts. The CLR (Commonwealth Law Reports) are the authorised reports of decision of the High Court of Australia. The Federal Court Reports (FCR) are the authorised reports of decisions of the Federal Court of Australia (including the Full Court). Each state and territory has a series of authorised reports, e.g. the New South Wales Law Reports (NSWLR), containing decisions of the superior courts of the state or territory.


Your first thought is probably that it’s an acronym for a BLT-sandwich adaptation. Quite possibly, but PLT also stands for Practical Legal Training. If you want to become a lawyer in Australia you’ll not only have to survive the Priestly 11 (see below), you’ll also need to complete PLT.

In essence, PLT is a series of practical subjects that you study at the end of your degree to prepare you for lawyerdom. These subjects usually involve advising fictitious clients on their legal matters, appearing in simulated trials, writing lawyerly letters, negotiating pretend disputes and maintaining fake client files. Some universities incorporate PLT into the degree structure, others don’t and students instead complete it as a separate, 6-month course at the end of their law studies. You’ll also have to do a practical placement with a law firm as part of the PLT program.

Priestley 11

The Priestley 11 are eleven law subjects that must be successfully completed for admission into practice as a legal practitioner in Australia. Every law student in Australia will study:

  • Criminal law

  • Tort law

  • Contract law

  • Land and property law

  • Equity and trust law

  • Administrative law

  • Constitutional law

  • Civil procedure

  • Evidence

  • Company law

  • Legal ethics


Both these terms refer to a type of standardised academic grading that universities use to release your results i.e what your overall mark is. While most universities release individual marks and grades (Pass, Credit, Distinction, High Distinction), in order to compare you to the rest of your class, they also release a standardised mark in the form of a GPA or WAM. This also helps prospective employers see how well you fared compared to the rest of the bunch.

More specifically, a Grade Point Average is an internationally recognised calculation used to find the average result of all grades you achieved for your course. In case you're mathematically inclined, a GPA is calculated as follows: GPA= Sum of (grade points × course unit value) / total number of credit points attempted.

A Weighted Average Mark is the average mark you achieve across all completed units in a course.

Each university is different and will use either or both forms of grading. You can always find out what your uni will use by looking it up on their website...or you can just wait until results are released.

So that's some of the basic law student jargon you'll hear being thrown around your law school.

If you're having trouble understanding legal terminology, invest in a good legal dictionary (yes, they exist) – my first ever law teacher told us to get one and hugged it like a block of gold when she showed it to us.... I haven't let go of mine since.

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