What is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?

Posted by Julia Prior on

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One of the questions that I am often asked by my clients' is why do we need to involve a barrister in progressing their personal injury claim and what the difference between myself, as a Solicitor and a Barrister is.
I invited a Barrister I often use, Rory Holmes at Crown Office Chambers to assist with answering some of the most often posed questions. Over to Rory...

How are solicitors and barristers different?

Solicitors and barristers are the two types of lawyers who practice law in England and Wales. Although there is considerable (and increasing) overlap between the two sides of the profession, barristers and solicitors have different roles, and accordingly have developed different skills. Ordinarily, solicitors are the first point of contact for the client. Solicitors take instructions from the client, prepare the case, and provide preliminary advice. Most cases are dealt with exclusively by solicitors in this way.

If the solicitor views it necessary, they will then instruct a barrister to assist, usually by providing further advice on a particular aspect of the case or point of law. If the case progresses to trial, it becomes the barrister's job to represent the client through the court process.

What is a barrister?

The name "barrister" derives from the process of induction into the profession, known as being called to Bar, which is a ceremony at one of the Inns of Court. Barristers are usually self-employed, although they work within groups of other barristers with similar specialisms in a set of offices referred to as Chambers.

Barristers are identified by their distinctive court attire: horsehair wig, an open black gown, dark suit, with strips of white cotton called 'bands' or 'tabs' worn over a winged collar. As legal dramas are always popular, this is great for television directors, although actually the majority of County Court hearings are now conducted without robes (which is far less glamorous!).

Why did you become a barrister?

Each barrister may have followed a slightly different path into the profession, though typically, this will have involved a university degree, postgraduate qualifications, and often other work. In my case, I read modern languages as an undergraduate, before deciding on the law as a career, and so studied law as a postgraduate.

I chose to become a barrister as I thought it would be a job I would enjoy, and to which I would be suited. So far, that has proved to be the case.

What is a typical day for a barrister?

I spend most of my days in one of the County Courts in and around London. However, I am not limited to one area, and often travel to all four corners of the country. The working day in court usually starts at 9.30 am and runs to 4.30 pm, but there is work to be done before and after the courts' hours!

After court has finished I head back to chambers in London in order to prepare the case for the next day. To outsiders it seems odd that some of the preparation seems to occur so late. However, the focus of legal cases often change rapidly running up to a trial, and part of the barrister's skill is quick thinking, and to be able rapidly to get up to speed. 

I tell my parents that all that time spent doing homework on the school bus at the last minute was ideal preparation for the work of a barrister! In addition to my court practice, I also work from chambers on my paper practice, which means writing opinions on one particular aspect of a case or legal issue.

What is the best part of your job?

Without doubt the best part of the job is winning a case at trial. It represents the culmination of a lot of hard work of everyone involved in the case (even sometimes the barrister!) and makes it all worthwhile.

BL Claims Solicitors are here to help

If you would like to talk to someone and discuss a potential claim please call us on 0344 620 6600 anytime between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, or if you would prefer you can email us at info@blclaims.co.uk

About the Author

Julia is an Associate within our Personal Injury team dealing with all types of personal injury claims mainly on behalf of claimants.

Julia Prior
Email Julia
023 8085 7316

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