Difference Between Solicitor and Barrister: The Work
Put very simply, barristers tend to practise as advocates representing clients in court, whereas solicitors tend to perform the majority of their legal work in a law firm or office setting. There are, however, exceptions to this rule in both cases.
From an advocacy perspective, for example, the line between the two professions has become more blurred in recent times.
Solicitors can obtain ‘rights of audience’ which enables them to represent clients in court.
This means that solicitors can now perform many of the functions of a barrister up to a certain point, although barristers are able to work in a significantly higher level of court than their solicitor counterparts.
Although many solicitors do have rights of audience, the majority of them typically perform ‘behind the scenes’ type-work such as:
Advising people who come to them with legal issues
Holding negotiations and discussions between parties who are trying to reach agreement on a legal issue
Drafting and reviewing legal documents, such as contracts
Difference Between Solicitor and Barrister: The Training
Following completion of a qualifying law degree, or a non-law degree and a law conversion course, such as the GDL, you need to make the decision as to whether you wish to practice as a solicitor or barrister because this is where the road splits:
To become a solicitor, you must complete a vocational 1-2 year course called the Legal Practice Course (LPC) which is designed to prepare you for solicitor practice.
Following this, you must complete a 2 year training contract, which is practical legal work experience (typically carried out in a law firm) which must be completed in order to qualify as a solicitor. Your training contract allows you to explore different areas of law, you will spend terms in different ‘seats’.
Difference Between Solicitor and Barrister: Employed v Self-Employed
Most solicitors are employed by a law firm or commercial organisation as an ‘in-house’ solicitor. As an employee, they will receive a regular income, holiday pay, sick pay, benefits etc. This obviously offers a lot of job security.
Barristers, on the other hand, tend to be self employed and affiliated with a chambers which they share with other self-employed barristers.
With self-employment comes greater uncertainty in relation to income and during any holidays or sick leave, a barrister will not be paid.
As barristers become more senior and can charge higher fees, this becomes less of an issue, but for barristers just starting out, this can be a real challenge.
Barristers, however, are not always self-employed. Some barristers are employed ‘in-house’ at law firms and large commercial organisations (such as the Government Legal Service), which takes away the uncertainty associated with being self-employed and brings with it regular income and benefits.
Difference Between Solicitor and Barrister: Robe v Suit
Traditionally, a barrister in court was expected to wear traditional court attire in the form of a long black robe and wig.
Although many barristers are still expected to dress in this way, for an increasing number of barristers, including, for example, some civil practitioners, this is no longer necessary.
As a solicitor, there is no dress code. Smart dress will do just fine!
Difference Between Solicitor and Barrister: Work Experience Opportunities
If you are thinking about pursuing a career as a barrister, the work experience you should consider undertaking is different compared with the work experience you would consider if you were thinking about pursuing a career as a solicitor.
Budding solicitors would be considering work experience in a law firm-type environment, in the form of vacation schemesor otherwise. Budding barristers, on the other hand, would be considering work experience in the form of a mini pupillage.