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Barristers and Solicitors. A Difference?

So, what is the difference?

A barrister has wider rights of audience in court than a solicitor. Though solicitors may now qualify for the same rights of audience as barristers, although few do.

A barrister primarily makes his living from advocacy, and a solicitor primarily makes his living from the paperwork side of things, except that sometimes the opposite is true (for either).

A barrister is self employed, and practices out of a set of chambers, while solicitors enter into partnerships. However, some barristers are employed, although they don't generally have rights of audience if they are, although technically they could become solicitors and re-qualify for rights or audience, although neither a barrister or a solicitor employed by the Crown Prosecution Service would have rights of audience in the Crown Courts (yet). Equally some solicitors practice in sets of chambers.

A barrister is a specialist, like a surgeon, and a solicitor is a generalist, more like a family doctor. Only sometimes it is the other way round.

Um ...

Barristers get to wear wigs and gowns, and solicitors don't, except in arbitrations, the Magistrates courts, and youth courts, and sometimes in child sex abuse trials, where neither wear wigs and gowns. And the judge doesn't either. Sometimes judges have to wear lace underwear - well at least that's what they say when they borrow it.

Er ...

Barristers cannot turn down cases which they are qualified, and free to do, 'the cab rank rule'. Solicitors can. Sometimes barristers become inexplicably busy when the wrong case turns up ... allegedly. Most solicitors are employed by big firms, and would not dare suggest that they did not want to act for a particular client. Others cannot afford not to.

Um ...

Many barristers earn plenty of moolah, but some wander the streets in poverty. Solicitors like the moolah, but seem to spend most of it on barristers. The barristers with the most moolah are generally those who have spent most of it entertaining their solicitor clients.

Many thanks to David Toube for the inspiration and for most of and the better parts of the text, and for permission to hack it.
David Toube, Lecturer in Law, QMW, University of London

For just a moment' seriousness, it should be acknowledged that the system of separate professions, whilst under attack, retains some clear advantages. One is particularly important for us. Even as a very small firm, I can provide strongly based expert advice and assistance by calling on members of the bar when appropriate.

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18 October 2013 203 18 October 2013