An English lord is a person who has the right to sit in with the House of Lords in Great Britain. The House of Lords has both legislative and judicial duties, including trials of peers and impeachment cases. An appointment by the Queen is usually required to become a lord, although there are other ways to achieve this title.
The first way to become a lord is by receiving a life peerage. This title cannot be passed on to future generations, and it is normally given to those who have performed an exemplary service for the country. The Prime Minister nominates people for this honor, and then the Queen can choose whether or not to appoint them.
Law lords are also appointed by the Queen, after being nominated by the Prime Minister. To receive a lordship this way, you must first be a judge in the court of appeals, and catch the attention of the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor can then recommend you to the Prime Minister. Judges in the Court of Appeal in England, Wales, and North Ireland, as well as those in the Court of Session in Scotland are all eligible for this.
A third way to obtain a title is to be either a bishop or an archbishop. There are 26 archbishops and bishops who get a seat in the House of Lords. Upon retirement, this seat is passed along to the next most senior bishop in service. Archbishops of York and Canterbury are often offered life peerages when they retire, making them lords for the rest of their lives.
Some peerages are inherited. This is true of some of the oldest families in the United Kingdom. It is difficult to become a lord in this manner, unless you happen to be lucky enough to marry into an entitled family with no sons to pass the title onto. Lords who have inherited their titles no longer get a seat in the House of Lords after a change in legislature in 1999, but they do get to keep the actual title.
There are a few companies that sell titles, along with small plots of land, as souvenir gifts. The recipient will receive certificates, deeds, and other paperwork stating that he or she is now a lord or lady of a private estate — usually a 1 foot (30 cm) square plot. These peerages do not enable you to hold a seat in the House of Lords or to enjoy any of the other privileges of being a lord or lady, but they make great novelty items. Some of these titles can be inherited by future generations, but most cannot be passed on. Many of these offers are scams, however, so it is worth the extra time to research a company before buying a title through them.