Legal year
In English law
English law
English law is the legal system of England and Wales, and is the basis of common law legal systems used in most Commonwealth countries and the United States except Louisiana...

, the legal year is the calendar during which the judges sit in court. The year is divided into four terms:
  • Michaelmas term
    Michaelmas term
    Michaelmas term is the first academic term of the academic years of the following British and Irish universities:*University of Cambridge*University of Oxford*University of St...

     - from October to December
  • Hilary term
    Hilary term
    Hilary Term is the second academic term of Oxford University's academic year. It runs from January to March and is so named because the feast day of St Hilary of Poitiers, 14 January, falls during this term...

     - from January to April
  • Easter term
    Easter term
    Easter term is the name of the summer term at the University of Cambridge, the University of Wales, Lampeter, University of Durham, and formerly University of Newcastle upon Tyne , in the United Kingdom...

     - from April to May, and
  • Trinity term
    Trinity term
    Trinity term is the name of the third and final term of Oxford University's and the University of Dublin's academic year. It runs from about mid April to about the end of June and is named after Trinity Sunday, which falls eight weeks after Easter, in May or June.At the University of Sydney, it was...

     - from June to July.

Between terms the Courts
Courts of England and Wales
Her Majesty's Courts of Justice of England and Wales are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales; they apply the law of England and Wales and are established under Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.The United Kingdom does not have...

 are in vacation, and no trial
Trial (law)
In law, a trial is when parties to a dispute come together to present information in a tribunal, a formal setting with the authority to adjudicate claims or disputes. One form of tribunal is a court...

s are heard. The longest vacation period is between July and October. The dates of the terms are determined in law by a Practice Direction
Practice Direction
In English law, a Practice Direction is a supplemental protocol to rules of civil and criminal procedure in the Courts. The Civil Procedure Rules 1998 contains a large number of Practice Directions which give practical advice on how to interpret the rules themselves...

 in the Civil Procedure Rules. The Hilary term was formerly from January 11 to 31, during which superior courts of
England were open.

Start of the legal year

The legal year commences at the beginning of October, with a ceremony dating back to the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 in which the judges
Judiciary of England and Wales
There are various levels of judiciary in England and Wales — different types of courts have different styles of judges. They also form a strict hierarchy of importance, in line with the order of the courts in which they sit, so that judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales are generally...

 arrive in a procession from the Temple Bar
Temple Bar, London
Temple Bar is the barrier marking the westernmost extent of the City of London on the road to Westminster, where Fleet Street becomes the Strand...

 to Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 for a religious service, followed by a reception known as the Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

s' breakfast
, which is held in Westminster Hall. Although in former times the judges walked the distance from Temple to Westminster, they now mostly arrive by car. The service is held by the Dean of Westminster with the reading performed by the Lord Chancellor.

The ceremony has been held continuously since the Middle Ages, with the exception of the years 1940 to 1946 because of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. In 1953 it was held in St Margret's Church because Westminster Abbey was still decorated for the Coronation of Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...


The United States Supreme Court follows part of the schedule tradition, albeit without the ceremony. The Court's year-long term commences on the first Monday in October.

External links

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