To the average person, the world of law can be a very confusing one, which is one of the many reasons we employ someone to act on our behalf in any legal proceedings.
However, if you find yourself in need of representation, you need to know who to speak to. To clear up a question many people don’t know the answer to, here is the definitive difference between solicitors, barristers and lawyers in the UK.
While the term lawyer holds more ground in the USA, it is somewhat different in the UK. A lawyer is less of a definitive term to describe someone in law and is more of a blanket term, which can be used to describe anyone who is a licenced legal practitioner and able to give legal advice in multiple areas of law.
While lawyer is a more general term, solicitor and barrister have definitive differences.
A solicitor is the type of legal representative that most people will be accustomed to. They are a qualified legal professional that provide legal advice and support to clients.
Solicitors come in a number of forms, from individuals, partnerships and groups, public sector entities and private companies.
In their day to day work, solicitors work directly with clients to aid them in any proceedings in which they need a legal professional, be it to check a contract, negotiate settlements with other parties or if necessary, represent them in court.
Solicitors aren’t always a one stop shop for all legal advice, with many specialising in different areas.
One form which has escalated dramatically over the last few years, while also annoying a great deal of the public in the process has been Paid Protection Insurance (PPI). This article from the Telegraph sums PPI up quite simply.
A textbook example of the sort of solicitors you are likely to see on your high street or in your local listings is OM&M Law.
This firm offers legal support in a number of areas, however, they specialise in medical negligence and personal injury claims.
A barrister, otherwise known as a barrister-at-law, is a legal specialist who represents individuals and groups or organisations in courts of law or through written advice.
Barristers are generally seen as the experts in the courtroom, whereas a solicitor is generally acknowledged for their work outside of it.
While a solicitor can represent their clients in court, in England and Wales barristers are generally hired to represent the client once it gets to a court stage by their solicitor.
One of the many things which sets barristers apart from solicitors is their knowledge of case law and precedent, something which is vital when working with a case which might be particularly niche.
In court, there is also something visual that sets barristers apart from other legal professionals, which is their appearance.
Barristers are required by law to wear a black silk gown, a bar jacket, band or a jabot and a horse hair wig which has curled hair at the side. This is described as Court Dress.
The only time you may see them appear without it is in magistrate’s courts or when the judge allows it, in situations like intense heat or where the court dress might intimidate children in trials of minors of family cases.
From these explanations, it is clear that while lawyer is quite a vague term, solicitor and barrister count as very specific titles of roles in legal proceedings in England and Wales.