Lawtalk – Publication Review

Over Christmas, I spent a little downtime immersed in the forthcoming title ‘Lawtalk –The unknown stories behind familiar legal expressions’.

As titles go, Lawtalk is self-explanatory. It’s a very well researched and comprehensive book which does an excellent job of tracing the origin of certain pieces of legal terminology and explains how, from an array of unlikely beginnings, they have nestled themselves so firmly into modern parlance.

While the book runs to nearly 300 pages, I was still surprised by the considerable depth in which each of the nearly 100 phrases is examined. Sensibly, each is tackled in alphabetical order and the pages broken up with the odd photograph, illustration or print.  The vast majority of the expressions will be well known to lawyers and non-lawyers alike and so should be of universal appeal. I’m sure a few will evoke a grimace or groan from some readers, but the history behind each phrase is fascinating nonetheless.

Some of my favourites were:

Aid and abet (and the like)

Black letter law


Chancellor’s foot

Day in court

Eye for an eye

Fishing expedition


The law is an ass

Philadelphia lawyer


Thinking like a lawyer

The whole truth

While clearly being pitched at the US market, the book includes a number of legal phrases widely used (or at least heard of) in the UK. Indeed, as you might imagine, many of the phrases have their origins on this side of the Atlantic which makes the history behind the expressions all the more interesting (for British readers, at least).

Lawtalk would make an excellent gift for both newly qualified and seasoned lawyers alike, as well as law students, graduates or even an anorak-clad ‘lawspotter’ whose reading tastes, for whatever reason, run to the peculiar. It would be a treasured newcomer to any bookshelf and provides an enlightening insight into the countless pieces of ‘legalese’ to which we are all exposed daily, but have had little reason to question - until now.

Lawtalk is due to be published in the UK on 27th January 2012.


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