The Differences Between Solicitors and Barristers

| Career Insights

In the UK Legal System, there are two types of lawyers: barristers and solicitors. In its most basic form, a barrister is a legal representative who represents, defends, and advocates for clients in court or in a tribunal. On the other hand, a solicitor does not represent in court, instead, they provide legal advice to clients, carry out negotiations, draft and review legal documents and much more. Essentially, the main difference is that the barristers do the work inside of court, and the solicitor does the work outside of court.

solicitors vs barristers

Solicitor v Barrister – What are the differences?

In the UK Legal System, there are two types of lawyers: barristers and solicitors. In its most basic form, a barrister is a legal representative who represents, defends, and advocates for clients in court or in a tribunal. On the other hand, a solicitor does not represent in court, instead, they provide legal advice to clients, carry out negotiations, draft and review legal documents and much more. Essentially, the main difference is that the barristers do the work inside of court, and the solicitor does the work outside of court.

Insight into Barristers:

The work of a barrister does differentiate from that of a solicitor as barristers tend to focus on advocacy, however, they do still have roles involving:

  • Giving legal advice to clients
  • Researching and preparing cases, precedents, and legal documents

However, barristers only tend to become involved with a case once advocacy is needed and generally only focus on contentious law meaning their work revolves around legal disputes between two or more parties. Generally, it is solicitors who hire barristers to represent a case in court. While in court the role of a barrister involves:

  • Examining and cross-examining witnesses
  • Advising clients on the strength of their case
  • Negotiating settlements

Most barristers tend to be self-employed, though there are also barristers who work for government departments such as the Crown Prosecution Service or the Government Legal Profession, barristers tend to work in offices called ‘Chambers’ which often shared with other barristers to cut costs. They are clearly distinguishable to solicitors by the wig and gown they wear while they are in court whereas solicitors wear usual smart clothing.

Barristers are assisted by ‘Barristers Clerks’ who are responsible for managing the practice and the Chambers business activities providing administrative support when receiving cases from solicitors

Insight into Solicitors:

Unlike barristers, solicitors are almost never self-employed, instead, they work for large law firms, they can also work in-house for commercial and industrial organisations or for government departments.

Furthermore, a very large part of a solicitor’s role involves non-contentious work such as assisting of selling/buying properties or working on mergers between companies, solicitors work does not always require the courts/tribunals and is often just regulatory or transactional legal work for their clients as opposed to the contentious nature of barrister’s work.

The main roles involve:

  • Working closely alongside clients to advise, interview and explain
  • Preparing documents for court
  • Drafting key documents such as contracts
  • Negotiation with clients and opposing parties

The main difference between barristers and solicitors is the advocacy role of the barrister, though in recent years there has been development in the legal world, solicitors have been able to obtain ‘rights of audience’ allowing them to represent clients in court meaning solicitors can carry out similar roles to barristers, however, this is only up to a certain level, whereas barristers are able to work in a much higher level of court than solicitors.

Qualification:

To qualify as either a barrister or solicitor a minimum 2:2/2:1 degree is needed dependent on the employer. This doesn’t have to be a law degree, but a law conversion course must be undertaken.

To qualify as a barrister, you must pass the ‘Bar Course Aptitude Test’ and must join one of the four inns of court. After this there is another of Bar course that need to be passed, this has many names and can be referred to as the Bar Practice Court, the Bar Vocational Course or simply the Bar Course, all these satisfy the vocational component of barrister training. After this, barristers must complete a pupillage which is a work-based component of the barrister’s qualification.

Solicitors must complete both stages (SQE1 and SQE2) of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), then complete two years full time of qualifying work experience to qualify as a solicitor.

Overview:

Despite there being stark differences in these two jobs, they do share a lot of similarities, both roles involve aspects of legal advice, drafting documentation and negotiation. Furthermore, both barristers and solicitors specialise and work in one specific area of law, such as commercial law, chancery law, etc. These similarities have grown with solicitors now being allowed to obtain ‘rights to the audience’.

However, they do remain as two separate jobs in law and the main difference is the advocacy role of the barristers, both barristers and solicitors have similar duties, but they are involved in case at two separate times, the solicitor is involved outside of the courts and the barristers gets involved once the case is being heard in the courts.

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