Be Prepared

Kel & Kel Law Firm

Court Lingo

If you have received a summons, or are making a civil claim, the road ahead may seem intimidating. There is a lot to know as you prepare yourself for the case. There are many steps from summons to verdict and we are here to help you through the process. You may be unfamiliar with typical court lingo, so here at Kel & Kel Law Firm we have prepared a list of 10 terms for you in the order that they would occur in a typical trial!


1. Plaintiff - the person who brings a complaint into a court. The plaintiff files a complaint against the defendant for compensation of some sort.

2. Complaint - a list of the plaintiff's claims, the legal basis for them, and the desired relief - which is provided to the court. It initiates a civil lawsuit against the defendant. A complaint is the true start of a court case.

3. Summons - a document from the court, with the complaint, that notifies the defendant that he or she is being sued. It provides information on the procedures that the defendant must follow to respond. The summons calls the defendant to court and prompts his or her answer.

4. Defendant - the person who the plaintiff is filing the complaint against.

5. Pleadings - the claims, defenses, and legal arguments of the parties: the plaintiff and defendant. The pleadings form the legal basis and evidence for the case.

6. Pretrial Conference - the meeting of both parties involved in a case before the trial occurs. This typically occurs with the magistrate or the trial judge and discusses the rules and/or procedures for a trial. The pretrial conference is also a time for the lawyers to discuss evidence.

7. Trial - the examination of evidence using the law to decide an outcome to the claims. Evidence from the defendant and plaintiff is examined and a verdict is issued.

8. Preponderance of Evidence - when the evidence supports the claims of one side more than the other. This is the typical basis for judging the outcome of a civil claim. The plaintiff must have a preponderance of evidence to win a civil case.

9. Verdict - the decision of the judge or jury in trial. The verdict decides how the claims of the plaintiff and defendant are resolved.

10. Appeal - the request for the outcome of a case to be reviewed by a higher court. If you believe that there were errors made by the trial court, you can appeal it.


A trial is not your only option though. There are two other ways that your case can be resolved.


1. Mediation - the parties hire an independent person to help settle the disagreement; mediation is typically non-binding. Mediation is different from Arbitration in that the parties are being assisted to reach a settlement rather than having the merits of their case ruled upon by the third party. If mediation does not work, the case will proceed onward to arbitration or trial. (Note: Sometimes, a judge can order the parties to attempt mediation)

2. Arbitration - both parties can agree to the use of an independent person or panel to judge a dispute outside of court; arbitration is typically binding. Arbitration is a substitute for court action which can be specified in contracts or agreed to by the parties.


These terms will help you to prepare for your upcoming litigation. To see the process for a court trial in greater detail, see our brochure 'Court Processes.'

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Contact Us

Remember that we are always here for you. Contact one of our two founders, Heather or Kirsten, at (919) 999-3456 or email them at kel@law.com. We are here to make your court case easy and smooth. Find us online for more brochures and information on our firm at kellaw.com. Visit our firm in the center of beautiful Raleigh, NC.