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A lawyer asked his client to google a legal term. He immediately regretted it

3 months ago JS Lim

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If you’ve ever been bombarded with jargon you didn’t understand, you already know how it feels like to read a document chock full of legal terms. There are already the fiendish Latin terms, then you also have those words that have different meanings in law from normal everyday English. That makes law complex even for those who can say their “England very powderful”.

Sometimes, lawyers have to explain legal terms to their clients. With Google around these days, you can find a lot of explanations online just by searching for them. But this doesn't always work for law…

A lawyer asked a confused client to Google something she didn't understand, and Google confused her even more. We also found 4 other legal terms you might not want to trust Google to explain to you… We'll start off with the true story first, then go on to the other legal terms we found with weird image search results.

 

1. Common Seal

What Google Images shows

A lawyer shared this funny story of a confused client on Facebook. Apparently the client had a little misunderstanding...

What it normally means

Like the confused client above, a seal is usually understood as the furry little animal you find in the Arctic. Some people also think of the wax seals with a logo usually used to seal some letters.

Image from designerstips

What it means in law

A company’s common seal is actually a stamp containing the company’s name and registration number. It’s optional under Section 16 of the Companies Act 2016, but it’s normally used on official documents such as share certificates and contracts signed by the company.

 

2. Assault and Battery

What Google Images shows

Ok, so Google got this one right. But the puns are still funny.

 

What it normally means

A lot of people take assault and battery to both mean the same thing - hitting someone or beating them up. We also normally associate “battery” with electrical batteries, which leads to a lot of puns on the internet, like this one...

Image from imgur

What it means in law

“Assault” is a wrong most simply explained as actions or words that threaten someone with harm. This is one of those words that has a different meaning in law from normal English, which confuses the heck out of people. Law is already confusing enough, now you could end up saying the same words but mean different things?? !@#$%

“Battery” on the other hand, basically refers to non-consensual touching. Usually this is when someone is given a slap out of nowhere for example, but in extreme cases (like if you’re being harassed), mere touching can get you charged with battery. You could say this law teaches harassers to be batter people.

 

3. Alienation

What Google Images shows

Top result is the PS4 game Alienation. Did a good job with their SEO didn’t they?

 

What it normally means

We usually understand alienation as that lonely feeling, that you’re being left out and excluded. Maybe because you pulled a really bad joke last week, or you had a bit of snot on your face when you turned up to a party one time…

What it means in law

Alienation in law is usually referring to “alienation of land” under Section 76 of the National Land Code. Land in Malaysia belongs to the State, and their selling or renting the land is called “alienation”. Thankfully, it's not sold to an actual alien nation from Mars.

 

4. Tort

What Google Images shows

Cakes, cakes, and more cakes. Apparently “tort” is Polish for “cake”.

 

What it normally means

It’s not a familiar word to most Malaysians (unless you’ve learnt a bit of law) because it’s the French word for “wrongdoing”. Maybe someone just spelled "tart" badly.

What it means in law

A tort is what the law calls a wrongdoing which you can sue for compensation. It’s usually to do with annoyances and accidents like practicing the drums at midnight everyday, posting lies about someone on social media, or a car crash. Speaking of which, if you consider upskirt recording a tort, you might not be tort-ally wrong.

 

5. Privy

What Google Images shows

Yep, it’s one of those outhouse toilets where you probably don’t have proper sanitation. It's privy disgusting.

 

What it normally means

Malaysians don’t normally use this word, but some of you will understand this word to mean “toilet”. The other common meaning is whether you are in the know - whether you are “privy to this information”.

What it means in law

“Privy” in law usually refers to privity of contract (Tweddle v Atkinson 1861). If someone is “privy to a contract”, it means they are a party to a contract and have the right to sue on it. Third parties cannot sue even if they stand to benefit. For example, if your parents paid a driving school to give you driving lessons and your driving coach doesn’t show up for lessons, your parents are the ones with the right to sue the driving school, not you.

 

Legal terms are sometimes necessary

It’s frustrating when lawyers are difficult to understand because of all the terms they use. These terms usually mean very specific things that if explained differently, runs the risk of being misunderstood, or even inaccurate in law. This has little effect on normal everyday life, but could mean the difference between winning and losing a court case.

That doesn’t mean that law terms should stay incomprehensible for the average Malaysian, but we should at least know why they exist in the first place.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. Every situation is unique and dependent on the facts (ie, the circumstances surrounding your individual case) so we recommend that you consult a lawyer before considering any further action. All articles have been scrutinized by a practicing lawyer to ensure accuracy.
Tags:
legal terms
funny
tort
privity of contract
privy
alienation
land
assault
battery
company common seal
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