When most people thing of a solicitor, lawyer, barrister, or attorney, they imagine two smartly dressed people battling it out in a courtroom.
The term “lawyer” is a generic term used to describe any person qualified in one or more law fields for legal advice. In short, both a solicitor and a barrister are types of lawyers. So, what is the difference between a lawyer and a solicitor or between an attorney and a barrister?
There are few critical differences.
What is a barrister, and what does he/she do?
In general, a barrister provides expert legal advice and represents individuals and organizations in courts and tribunals and through written legal advice. People tend to recruit barristers for court case representation and they only work on the court’s requirement. A barrister’s role is to translate and structure the view of their client’s events into legal arguments and make persuasive representations that help achieve the best possible outcome.
Barristers specialize in various fields of law, such as criminal law, state and trust law, corporate law, entertainment law, sports law, and common law, including family and divorce law, housing, and personal injury law.
While a lawyer’s work can vary greatly depending on their level of experience and the field of law in which they practice, they will generally counsel clients on the strength and the law of their case and give them a written ‘opinion.’
Typical duties include:
- Providing professional legal advice to lawyers.
- Research and preparation of litigation and drafting of legal papers.
- Liaising with other legal practitioners and judges.
- Representing clients and taking a case before the court in their defense
- Cross-examination of witnesses, analysis of proof, and drawing conclusions
- Negotiation of agreements between the client and other parties
What is the role of a lawyer?
Lawyers (or attorneys) serve as advocates and advisors. As advocates, they represent one of the parties to a criminal or civil trial by providing evidence and arguing in favour of their client.
As advisers, lawyers advise clients on their legal rights and responsibilities and recommend courses of action in corporate and personal matters. Lawyers both investigate the purpose of laws and judicial rulings and adapt the law to their clients’ particular situations.
Lawyers also oversee support staff, such as paralegals, legal assistants, and legal secretaries. Lawyers can have different titles and responsibilities, depending on where they work.
In law firms, lawyers, also referred to as partners, conduct legal work for individuals or corporations. Those who advise and protect the accused can be called criminal lawyers or defense attorneys.
Attorneys also consult for federal, state, and local governments. These prosecutors typically work for the government to bring a complaint or indictment against a person or a company suspected of violating the law. Some can also serve as public defense lawyers for people who could not afford to employ their private attorney.
What is a solicitor?
The meaning of a solicitor under the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) is “a legal practitioner who has completed a law degree and holds a practicing certificate”. This credential is gained after practical legal training (PLT) and an applicant is admitted to legal practice. Applicants must also undergo 18 – 24 months of supervised practice before obtaining a practicing certificate.
The word ‘solicitor’ is not common – most of them refer to themselves as lawyers. A solicitor is a lawyer who gives legal advice to clients in one or more fields of law. They are the first port of call when a person or a company needs legal advice on an issue, or legal services such as contract-making, intellectual property rights, business sales, and purchasing assistance. They handle the legal affairs of their clients regularly.
What does an attorney do?
This is a phrase that is most often used in America —it is quite rare to hear the term ‘Attorney’ when referring to a Victorian legal practitioner. The word ‘solicitor’ or ‘lawyer’ is much more commonly used in Australia.
You may sometimes hear the term ‘Trademark Attorney’ used to refer directly to anyone who offers representation in such matters of intellectual property law. The proper name of this individual in Australia is ‘Trademark Lawyer.’
Lawyers v/s solicitors
When you hear the words ‘lawyer’ and ‘solicitor,’ it can be hard to know if they mean the same thing. What’s the most significant difference between lawyers v/s solicitors? Do you call a ‘lawyer’ a Solicitor?
Here is a brief difference between solicitor and lawyer:
- Lawyer: an individual with a law practise certificate. This involves Solicitors, Barristers, Judges, and Corporate Counsels.
- Solicitor: a person with a certificate of practise that is not a Barrister or a Judge.
The tasks of a solicitor explains how lawyers and solicitors are different:
- Production of contracts and letters tailored to the needs of their clients;
- Preparation of records for the court;
- Negotiating with their client and another party to secure the agreed objectives;
- Collect evidence;
- Calculate lawsuits for negligence, damages, and loss of earnings;
- Appearing in court (except where a barrister is needed); and
- Instructing a barrister or a consultant for expert testimony to appear before the Court for a client.
Lawyers typically do the following tasks quantifying the difference between lawyers and solicitors in Australia:
- Advise and represent clients in arbitration, government departments, and private legal matters
- Communicate with clients, colleagues, judges, and those interested in the case.
- Conduct a study and review of legal issues
- Interpreting rules, decisions, and legislation for people and companies
- Present evidence to their clients or others in writing and orally and argue on behalf of their clients.
- Prepare and file legal papers, such as cases, appeals, testaments, contracts, and actions.
How are barristers and lawyers different?
Australia’s rules for lawyers and barristers differ depending on the state and territory. In several Australian states, this legal profession is ‘fused’. It ensures that there is no distinction between barristers and lawyers. Both of them belong to the same technical society. In a law firm, barristers will work as solicitors and vice versa. Additionally, lawyers may also testify in court.
Many barristers are self-employed and work alongside other barristers in offices known as ‘Chambers.’ To qualify as a barrister, you must hold a Law Degree, a Qualifying Graduate Professional Certificate and recognition from the Bar. Subsequently, barristers must undergo an apprenticeship consisting of 12 months for tenancy in the chambers.
The word ‘lawyer’ is a generic phrase that usually defines the entire legal profession.
Barrister vs Solicitor: their separate positions in your legal matter
In terms of the complicated legal jargon used in the Australian court system, two terms usually cause the most confusion among the average citizen: the lawyer vs. the barrister.
This confusion also stems from the fact that the word ‘lawyer’ is often used interchangeably with solicitors and barristers. Although barristers, lawyers, and attorneys are not as defined as they once were, there is a significant gap between the role of the barrister and the solicitor’s role in the Australian legal system.
A main differentiating factor of solicitors v/s barrister is that they are not always required, as there are cases where having both a judge and a lawyer will be tedious and excessive. Today, although barristers are still seen in court more frequently than solicitors, their positions are not as described. Barristers are not often called upon, and when they do, they always work more closely with solicitors than they have done in the past.
Traditionally, it is easy to see a barrister in court as they wear a formal wig and a dress during the trial proceedings.
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