January 13, 2021
January 13, 2021

Sorry, I don’t speak Legalese: Barristers v Solicitors

There is often some confusion in the difference between barristers and solicitors. Put simply, barristers tend to represent clients in court, and solicitors tend to carry out a majority of their legal work in an office setting.

There are, however, exceptions in each case.

What is a Barrister?

Barristers, commonly also referred to as ‘counsel’, are qualified legal professionals. They offer specialist advice as well as representing clients in court. 

Their main role is to act as advocates in legal hearings, pleading a case to a judge on behalf of their clients. Barristers also have specialist knowledge of the law and litigation process so are frequently also instructed to give legal advice. 

Barristers receive the details from the case (research, testimonials, evidence etc.) and will prepare what they are going to say in court.

They are able to negotiate settlements, encourage the court to support the case, and cross-examine witnesses.

A barrister’s work often depends on their level of expertise, but is it common amongst all barristers to be asked to advise clients on the law and the strength/merits of their case. This is often given in the form of a ‘written opinion’.

Barristers will often have expertise in a particular area of law and/or are experienced in specific types of litigation.

This can be seen in the barristers that our firm instruct. For example, Gareth Shires of Exchange Chambers is an expert in both consumer protection law and Group Litigation Orders.

What is a Solicitor? 

A solicitor is also a qualified legal practitioner. If you are seeking legal advice, or are at the very early stages of making a claim, it is a solicitor that you will usually reach out to as your first point of contact. Solicitors often work inside organisations such as law firms, governments, private businesses, banks and corporations. 

Each solicitor may have specialist knowledge of different areas of the law such as family, crime, finance, property and employment. This allows them to expertly advise clients, undertake negotiations and draft legal documents which relate to that field.

Previously, solicitors were restricted to magistrates’ courts (where less serious cases are dealt with) and minor cases in county courts, but there are now a small number of solicitors who also work in the higher courts.

Although many solicitors do have rights of audience, the majority typically perform ‘behind the scenes’ work including:

  • Advising clients who approach them with legal issues;
  • Drafting and reviewing legal documents, such as contracts; and
  • Holding negotiations and discussions between parties who are trying to reach an agreement.

Our firm is a leader in the UK class action market, litigating some of the largest and most complex cases in history. Our team of expert barristers and solicitors ensure that each of our clients’ interests are represented properly throughout the lifespan of their claims.

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