In Law, what is a Consilium?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A consilium is an advisory body. The term “consilium” comes from the Latin “to advise the lord,” and is the same root of words like “council.” This word is also sometimes seen spelled “concilium.” There are a number of settings in which a consilium may be present and such bodies can be utilized in a variety of ways, depending on where they are located and the qualifications of their members. Private companies may also use this term in their name to suggest that they provide consultations, advice, and recommendations to their customers.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

This term is often translated into a variety of terms including council, assembly, and deliberation. The role of a consilium is to take information, consider it among the members, and return advice or an opinion on that information. Members may debate amongst themselves, form committees, hear evidence as a group, and engage with material they are asked to address in other ways. In some regions, a consilium is merely an advisory body and the comments it makes are not binding, while in other areas it may be structured into the legal system and can be involved in drafting legislation and other activities.

Members of a consilium may have qualifications such as experience and specialized training which put them in a position to offer opinions and advice. For example, in an advisory body which offers opinions of proposed legislation, the members may be legal scholars and former lawmakers who are familiar with the process of making law and the limitations which are placed on the law. Likewise, a consilium which sets policy includes people who are familiar with the boundaries of policymaking.

The size and structure of a consilium can vary. People may be appointed by others, can apply for positions as they open up, and may also be elected. Proceedings may be open or closed, and likewise with the results returned by the body when it is done considering information and is ready to offer an opinion. The scope, powers, and organization of the advisory body can be set out in bylaws or other documents which are designed to define the consilium and its role.

Because this word is used in so many different ways, it can be advisable to ask about the specific structure and role of a consilium when one is under discussion, to avoid confusion. A lack of clarity can contribute to misunderstandings which may cause problems with communications.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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