Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quid Pro Quo and Other Thoughts on Learning Latin

If the Romans had been obliged to learn Latin,
they would never have found time to conquer the world.
~Heinrich Heine

It is interesting how decisions we make can have a powerful impact on our future, even if those decisions are made for the wrong reasons and years before their impact is apparent.

As a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school, I chose to take Latin. Why? Well...how does any fourteen-year-old girl make decisions? I must have wanted to learn Latin, my mother must have wanted me to learn Latin, AND the teacher was beyond gorgeous. I don't remember his name but he was OLD...probably all of 22 since that was his first teaching job.
My stint in Latin class lasted through the middle of my sophomore year when my family moved North and it wasn't available in my new school. I know I probably hated to leave the teacher, but I'm certain it didn't bother me one iota to interrupt my Latin lessons forever.

Fast forward more years than I like to think about and here I am. involved with the legal profession and eternally grateful for my Latin lessons. What I learned in the space of one year has served me well in my paralegal career.

Paralegals are exposed to Latin terms almost every day, whether they work in litigation or in civil law...whether they're preparing pleadings or contracts. It's important that they understand what the terms translate to, for example:
  • Ad hoc. For this; for this special purpose
  • Ad litem. For the suit; for the purposes of the suit.

  • Amicus curiae. A friend of the court. A person who has no right to appear in a suit but is allowed to introduce argument, authority, or evidence to protect his interest.

  • Duces tecum. Bring with you; requiring a party who is summoned to appear in court to bring with him some document, piece of evidence, or other thing to be used or inspected in court.

  • Et al. An abbreviation for et alii "and others'.

  • Et seq. Abbreviation of et sequentes; "and the following" something shown as et seq.

  • Et ux. an abbreviation of et uxor, "and wife"

  • Ex parte. On one side only; by or for one party

  • Ex post facto. After the act

  • Fiat. "let it be done".

  • Ibit. Abbreviation of ibidem; in the same place, in the same book; on the same page

  • In re. In the affair; in the matter of

  • In toto. In the whole

  • Inter vivos. Between the living

  • Ipso facto. By the fact itself; by the mere fact

  • Lis pendens. A pending suit

  • Mala praxis. Malpractice

  • Mandamus. We command

  • Nunc pro tunc. Now for then.

  • Per curiam. By the court.

  • Per se. By himself or itself.

  • Per stirpes. By roots or stocks; by representation.

  • Praecipe. An original writ, drawn up in the alternative, commanding the defendant to do the thing required or show the reason why he had not done it.

  • Quantum meruit. as much as he deserved.

  • Quantum valebant. As much as they were worth.

  • Quare. Wherefore; for what reason

  • Quid pro quo. What for what; something for something.

  • Res. A thing; an object;

  • Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself.

  • Res judicata. A matter adjudicated

  • Scilicet (SS. or ss.) To wit; that is to say

  • Semper. Always

  • Semper paratus. Always ready

  • Simplex. Simple, single

  • Sine. Without

  • Situs. Situation; location

  • Stare decisis. To abide by, to adhere to, decided cases

  • Status quo. The existing state of things at any given date.

  • Supra. Above; upon

  • Tort. A private or civil wrong or injury.

  • Ultra. Beyond; outside of; in excess of.

  • Ultra Vires. Acts beyond the scope of the powers of a corporation as defined by its charter or articles of incorporation.

  • Versus. Against

  • Vice. In the place or state

  • Vice versa. Conversely, in inverted order

  • Voir dire. To speak the truth.

Was Latin difficult? Yes! Was learning Latin important? Yes, again! It serves as the root for so much of our language, in fact all languages. When I entered the legal profession as a paralegal, I already felt comfortable.

I can't say this about all the classes I've taken, but the time spent learning Latin was time well spent.

Have you studied Latin? I'd like to hear if and how it has impacted your career.



1 comment:

Lynne DeVenny said...

I took FIVE years of Latin, with nary a cute instructor in sight. But I did have some out-of-sight verbal SAT scores - so yay Latin!

On the legal front, "de minimis non curat lex". (This was before Judge Judy...:P)