Hello everybody and welcome again to TransLegal's lesson of the week.
My name is Gregory and I am here to talk to you today about the term equity.
The term equity is a pretty interesting Legal English term because it has meanings in different contexts within the Legal English world. So we will be talking about that.
As a lawyer-linguist here at TransLegal I do get asked the same questions over and over again. The first and most common question I get is someone will come up to me and say, "Greg," and I will say, "Yes," and they'll say, "Greg," and I'll say, "What? What is it? Why do you keep saying my name?" and they'll say, "Greg, what is it that you actually do at TransLegal?" and I'll say, "Well, we are lawyer-linguists," and then they'll say, "Well, what the heck is that?" and I'll say, "Dad, how many times have we been over this? We are lawyers at the company and we are also involved in the Legal English field. We offer teaching, training and testing products to non-native English speakers to help them in their pursuit of practising law. Now put Mom on the phone, stop bothering me."
So that's one conversation I have a lot. The other one is usually related to this and that is equitable relief. "Greg, what is equitable relief?" and that's a question I don't get generally from my parents, but from other lawyers around the world.
In order to understand what equitable relief is in terms of contract language you have to really understand the term equity and how it fits in. Now many of you may be familiar with the term equity in its company law context and the term equity in the financial sense or in the company law context really has a meaning which ties into the monetary value of something, either the monetary value of a property or business, the ownership interests shareholders have in a company or just referring generally to the common stock or common shares of a corporation, ordinary shares for a corporation (British English).
But in this context the term equity has a little bit different meaning and this is the common law concept of equity – the principle of equity, which means fairness, the carrying out of justice according to fair principles.
And so, if you want to go back for a history lesson, in England, back in the day, there used to be courts of law and courts of equity. Courts of law were where you went if you wanted to get money – damages, and courts of equity were where you went if you wanted to get something else – if someone had stolen your cow and you wanted to get the cow back because it produced, maybe, a delicious brand of milk, you could go to the court of equity and get it back.
Even though the courts have kind of merged into one, the distinction still exists today in the sense that equitable relief means any sort of relief other than damages which is non-monetary, i.e. not money.
The most common equitable relief is injunctions when talking about court orders – to do or not to do something, but there are other examples as well - specific performance, which is asking a court to require the opposing party to finish the contract, or rescission, which is asking a court to put an end to a contract, or restitution, which is asking a court to give, not only under contract, but to give back any unjust enrichment that one side has obtained from the other.