Although not specifically recognized as a subspecialty of histopathology, haematopathology has a long history of specialist practice in the UK, with a few centres attracting large numbers of referred cases. The specialist nature of haematopathology has been enhanced by the advent of immunohistochemistry and, more recently, molecular genetics, which now play a major role in the diagnosis of haematopoietic and lymphoid neoplasms. Problems encountered by non-specialist pathologists, and reflected in those cases submitted for consultation, include difficulties in the differential diagnosis of certain benign lymphoproliferative disorders from lymphoma and the precise classification of lymphomas which may have an impact on therapeutic decisions. Lymphomas that frequently pose problems include common lesions such as follicular lymphoma and more esoteric disorders such as T-cell/histiocyte-rich large B-cell lymphoma. This review is an attempt to clarify a logical approach to the differential diagnosis of these lesions.