Solicitors v Barristers – what’s the difference?
2 November 2023 by Joel Tyson
Both barristers and solicitors are professional lawyers practising in law, but generally they will have different specialisms. Those individuals finding themselves involved in an application to court for the first time may not be familiar with the differences, and similarities, between the two professions.
What follows is a very broad outline for those involved in court proceedings for the first time.
Solicitors generally work directly with their clients. Their primary role is to take instructions, provide guidance and advice, and undertake the majority of the drafting and preparatory work in respect of their client’s case. They are often specialists in a particular are of law. In most cases, a solicitor would be involved throughout proceedings, from start to finish, supporting their client as the case progresses.
By contrast, barristers are specialist advocates whose skill set is more suited to arguing cases in court before a Judge, drafting court orders, and advising on the likely outcomes of a hearing. Barristers will also often be specialists in a particular area of law.
Barristers do not usually work directly for clients themselves, and instead they are usually instructed by a solicitor who has prepared a case on behalf of a client. Of course, the barrister would meet with the client and discuss their case accordingly, but this would only usually take place on the day of a particular hearing, or during pre-arranged conferences.
There can be significant overlap between the two different roles, and solicitors may also undertake advocacy and the presentation of a client’s case at a court hearing. This may just be in relation to preliminary court hearings, or hearings of a straight forward nature, although there are specialist Solicitor Advocates who conduct court proceedings at a higher level.
Equally, there are some barristers who offer “direct access” to members of the public, rather than relying on solicitors to deal with the preparation of the case and from whom they receive instructions. However, the “lay client” will in those circumstances be responsible for preparing their case and complying with the court rules and other directions which the court may make.
Whilst Barristers and Solicitors roles may overlap it is important to remember that they are both members of completely separate professions and are governed by different professional rules and governing bodies.
If you need legal advice or representation then it is generally important to find a suitable solicitor and discuss the details of your case with them. Your solicitor will then be able to advise you whether you would need a barrister as well, and will be able to make recommendations for barristers with specialisms in that area who would be best able to represent the client.
If you or anyone you know requires legal representation, please contact our Family team on [email protected] or call us on 01206 835300.