I used to think Devil's Advocate meant the defense lawyer, though it actually means someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position they do not necessarily agree with, for the sake of debate. My question is, does an idiomatic phrase, or euphemism exist, meaning 'Defense Lawyer'?


They're all pretty dated slang terms, but you might just still come across...

legal eagle a lawyer, especially one who is keen and astute.
mouthpiece a criminal lawyer (who speaks on behalf of the defendant).
brief (sense 10, British slang) a lawyer, esp. a barrister.

  • 2
    Legal eagle can refer to any lawyer. As for mouthpiece, its usage in the meaning given above is not very much.Isn't there any phrase/word which can almost always taken to mean 'defense lawyer'?
    – Adil Ali
    Mar 21 '14 at 17:06
  • @Adil: The context will invariably make it clear whether the legal eagle is [your] defence lawyer, or acting for the prosecution, but to be honest I don't think that term was ever used much. In context, most Anglophones will understand my mouthpiece, and most Brits will understand my brief, but (unless I'm just moving in the "wrong" circles) people don't normally use any of these sort of words except facetiously. If you're being serious (as befits most real contexts), it's my lawyer. Mar 21 '14 at 18:00
  • brief isn't dated in UK; you'll hear it in most current police television programmes. "He said he's saying nothing until his brief gets here."
    – jonathanjo
    May 2 '19 at 14:07
  • @jonathanjo: I think the slang brief = lawyer was always primarily AmE anyway. There aren't enough written BrE instances of his brief says in Google Books to chart, but you can see a massive decline since its heyday in the context of American prohibition-fueled gangsters. Whatever - I'm far from convinced scripted TV serials reliably reflect current usage trends. May 2 '19 at 16:47
  • @FumbleFingers ... I do not know if it's contemporary police/legal slang in the UK, but it's at least expected to be understood by contemporary audiences in eg Criminal Justice II, ep 1 (2009) "You're a brief, right?"; A Very English Scandal (2018, set in late 1970s) "I was talking to my brief", as well as The Sweeney (1970s) "A good brief will tear it to shreds."
    – jonathanjo
    May 2 '19 at 17:51

I am not aware of any word or phrase for "defense lawyer" other than: (a) "defense lawyer"; (b) "my lawyer", when you're the defendant; and (c) "the defense", when discussed from the viewpoint of the judge and jury. A judge will say "the defense has presented a motion to ...", but the defendant doesn't refer to his own lawyer as "the defense".

RE FumbleFingers answer, I suspect "my brief" is a British term. I have never heard it used in the U.S. In U.S. legal jargon, a "brief" is a paper that a lawyer or other interested party gives to the judge summarizing his legal argument. Maybe there's a relation between the two usages.

  • There's no need to "suspect" brief is BrE slang. That was specifically flagged up by the dictionary I linked to, and I included it in my text. But you're quite right that the BrE slang usage derives from OED's definition: A summary of the facts of a case, with reference to the points of law supposed to be applicable to them, drawn up for the instruction of counsel conducting the case in court. Mar 21 '14 at 21:30
  • I am not aware of any word or phrase for "defense lawyer" other than "defense lawyer..." Well, there's always "defense attorney," too – but I'll concede that's not a very impressive synonym. :^) There's also "public defender," which is a specialized kind of defense lawyer, but it might be worth mentioning.
    – J.R.
    Mar 22 '14 at 10:27
  • @FumbleFingers I meant, "EXCLUSIVELY British term". Yes, you said (or quoted someone saying) it was "British slang", I was trying to make clear that that usage is not found in the US.
    – Jay
    Mar 23 '14 at 5:30
  • @J.R. You're right, I'll grant you "defense attorney". As you concede, "public defender" is not a synonym for "defense lawyer", but a subset of defense lawyers. Just because some animals are dogs doesn't mean that "dog" is a synonym for "animal". :-)
    – Jay
    Mar 23 '14 at 5:32
  • In the UK, specifically in England and Wales: a "brief" is the formal term for the instructions the solicitor (approximately "desk based lawyer") gives to the barrister ("lawyer permitted to represent you in court"). "The solicitor gave the barrister the brief and he accepted it". Scotland and Northern Ireland have different legal systems to England and Wales, so it's likely usage differs there.
    – jonathanjo
    May 2 '19 at 14:11

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