Skip to Main Content

Law Library

Law Student Orientation


The following is an A-Z list of terminology used at law school: 


1L, 2L, 3L, 4L – refers to a law student's year in school (1st, 2nd, 3rd year, etc.) Remember the book by Scott Turow . . . One L? 

AALS –  Association of American Law Schools

ABA  –  American Bar Association

ADR  –  Alternative Dispute Resolution.

AG – Attorney general; AAG – Assistant Attorney General

All Wood – refers to the ALWD which in turn stands for Association of Legal Writing Directors. The ALWD manual is a legal writing style and citation manual.

"AMJUR" not only stands for American Jurisprudence (a legal encyclopedia) but often refers that you “aced” a class.

BarBri - This is a bar examination review course (not the only one) designed to get you a passing score on the MBE.  It costs bucks, but most takers pass.  Consider signing up as a 1L and lock in the fee.

Black letter law – This term describes a rule of law. You will learn how to apply these rules to various cases. It is important to understand the black letter law so you can explore further interpretations of these rules.

Black's – refers to Black’s Law Dictionary, a good place to look up the meaning of lots of legal terms.

Blue Book – Is a legal citation source. It's "real" name is The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. Cases, articles and other documents must be in proper citation form when submitted to the court or published in a law journal.

Briefs (Not underwear) – There are 2 kinds of briefs: briefs of cases and briefs that are prepared for court. You’ll learn to "brief a case" in order to highlight the important information in the case. Briefs prepared for court set forth legal arguments and conclusions. You will get a chance to write your own mock court brief during Spring Semester in LP.

CALI – Computer Assisted Legal Instruction.  CALI is a consortium of law professors and other legal professionals who compose interactive exercises in specific legal subject areas.  Law students have access to these exercises online at A  registration code is required; students may obtain the registration code by asking at the Circulation Desk or by asking a librarian,

CALR – Computer assisted legal research.  Librarians use this term to mean any electronic legal database, but most especially, Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. Other CALR databases include Loislaw and FastCase.

Casebook  –  The textbook that you will use for your classes. It is called a casebook because it is comprised of edited versions of published cases. The Law Library does not collect casebooks for its collection. Casebooks can be purchased at the bookstore and from online sources.

Caveat  –  “beware.”   The term is used to warn about interpretation of a law or rule.

CLE – Continuing Legal Education . . . and you thought you were through with school!  Most state bars require that you keep your legal education up to date by attending CLE classes and reporting them to the State Bar Association at regular intervals.

Clinic – The clinical program provides various supervised practice opportunities.

Closed Memo – A writing assignment in which all the case law, statutes and other sources needed to write the memo are given to you. Research beyond these materials is not necessary or encouraged. 

Course outline –  Start from day one compiling a summary of a class. You will use that summary to prepare for the final exam. Often study group members assign the responsibility for course outlines to an individual in the group and then everyone shares them at the end of the semester.  Remember that scene in The Paper Chase?

CSO – Career Service Office.  –  This professionally staffed office can help you with all of your career search needs. Whether you are looking for public sector, private sector or volunteer positions, they are the folks to help you out. Make sure your resume is up to date and meet with these career counselors.

DA – District Attorney; ADA – Assistant District Attorney

Practice Exams – Some old law school exams are kept in the electronic exam archive. Go to the Law Library Home Page and click on “Practice Exams. ” You will need the user name and password, available from the Circulation Desk or any librarian. 

Exam Number – A number assigned to you randomly each semester by the Registrar's Office for taking your final exams. This means that when faculty grade exams, they don't know whose exam they are reading. 

Glossary -- A glossary is a list of specialized terms and their meanings. 

Gov docs – Government documents, sometimes, just docs. SuDoc. Materials - materials published by local, state and federal governmental bodies and agencies.

Honor Code – The code of conduct for all law school students. Read it! Ignorance of the Code is no excuse!

Hornbook    A book containing detailed information on an area of law. As a reference resource, it can be helpful when clarifying issues addressed in your classes.

ID Card – Identifies you as a WU Law student. Contains your picture, your barcode, which you will need to borrow materials from the library, and a magnetic strip. .

Index -- An index is an alphabetical list of topics. Indexes are found at the end of volumes, or sometimes at the end of a set of books. When you find the topic (and perhaps the sub-topic) for which you are searching, you will be referred to a page number, a topic and key number, or a section number. An index is much more detailed than a Table of Contents and should be the first place you consult when looking for a topic in a book. 

ILL – Interlibrary loan

IP? or PI? – Intellectual property or personal injury.

J.D.  Juris Doctor –  the degree you receive upon graduation from law school.

Law review — Publications of scholarly articles about law written by law professors, lawyers, and law students. Sometimes called law journals. Washignton Unviersit Law School has 4 journals:Washington University Law Review; Washington University Journal of Law and Policy; Washington University Global Studies Law Review; and Washington University Jurisprudence Review 

Lexis & Westlaw & Bloomberg Law   These companies sponsor online legal research databases. You will be given a password or access code for both programs during your orientation. Be sure to register right away: you will need them for legal research class. 

LL.M – Master of Laws degree.

MBE  “Multistate Bar Exam” This 200 multiple choice exam is given in two 3 hour sessions.  Except for Louisiana and Washington, the MBE is the standard for new law graduates, a/k/a the MSBE.

M.E. – Medical Examiner.

Moot court – An exercise where students act the role of lawyers arguing before an appellate court. 1Ls will participate in this exercise during the spring semester.  At the end of your first year, you will have the opportunity to apply for one of the many  Moot Court teams available, which participate in state and national competitions.

MPRE – Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, required in many states to practice law.

NALP    National Association for Law Placement is an organization of law schools and legal employers committed to the development and advancement of fair, effective, and efficient career services and recruitment practices by providing educational programs and materials to those involved in legal career services and recruitment and by establishing and maintaining standards.

NRS – National Reporter System which includes West’s regional reporters, digests, etc.

Nutshell – Series of books by Thomson Reuters (West), each focusing on a particular topic.  Good for reviewing a topic.

OCI    On-campus interviews. This is one of they many ways our Career Services Office helps students find summer and permanent positions.

Order of the Coif – A national honor society for law school graduates who attended member schools. To see which law schools are members, go to

PA – Prosecuting attorney

PAD – Phi Alpha Delta is a professional legal fraternity of students and teachers of the law with members of the Bench and Bar. Claims to be the world’s largest law fraternity with over 200,000 members.

PDP – Phi Delta Phi.  Claims to be the oldest and largest professional legal fraternity.

Piperline – The on-line system that allows you to pick up your grades and register for classes.

PMBR  Another multistate bar exam preparation course.

Pro bono – Short for “pro bono publico”.  It means for the “for the public good” and refers to work done without compensation for the public good.

Procedural law – The “how to” of the legal system, including court rules and rules of civil or criminal procedure.

Pro se – “For oneself.”  Persons doing their own legal work and acting as their own attorneys who hang around law libraries with hope of getting free legal advice.

SBA    Student Bar Association.  This is the student government of the law school. 

Shepardize – A term used in legal research whereby you use a citator to check to make sure that the law that you are using has not been overturned. "Shepard's" (now owned by Lexis) was the original legal citator. Keycite (on Westlaw) is it's more recently developed competitor.  You can also use a citator to find cases that have cited the case you are interested in. Shepardizing is done electronically using Shepard's in LexisNexis or Keycite in Westlaw. A more generic term that is popularly used is "Citate."

Socratic method  A method of teaching by questioning.  The questioner has the answer in mind and tries to get you to that same point by asking questions designed to elicit facts, and arriving at a conclusion by reason and analysis.  Law professors are fond of using the Socratic method. 

Statutes  Laws as enacted by state and federal legislatures. An important part of the practice of law is finding these laws and applying them to the fact situation at hand.  Codes are the same laws that have been grouped together by subject area.

Study aids  Materials that help you understand the law you are studying.  Study aids include commercial outlines, scholarly publications such as the Nutshell series or Hornbook series, CALI exercises, even flash cards, or old exams.

Study Groups – Many students form study groups to help each other understand what is going on in class. Though they do prove to be helpful for many students, you can still do well in a class by studying on your own.

Substantive – Law which is distinguished from procedural law. Substantive law is what you may charge someone with, while procedural law is the "how to" of bringing the charge.

Table of Contents -- A Table of Contents is an outline of the information found in a book. Page numbers are given. Tables of Contents are found in the front of volumes.

Treatise – Detailed and in-depth treatment of a legal topic. They’re secondary sources of law that can provide you with theory, analysis, and lead you to cases and statutes.

UCC – Uniform Commercial Code

UPL  Unauthorized Practice of Law

WL - means “wait list” to the Registrar . . . and Westlaw to the law librarians.