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What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?

General Information

Relevant across multiple law types

In short, most barristers spend most of their time in court presenting cases and most solicitors spend their time preparing them.

However, you will get some solicitors who do at least as much court work as barristers, particularly in the magistrates or county courts.

Barristers and Solicitors have had much the same legal education, so it is not the case that one is “better at the law” than the other.  Because barristers tend to be in court more, they often have better advocacy skills but that is not always the case.

Members of the public cannot generally approach barristers directly and ask them to do work for them.  This usually has to be done through solicitors, who will instruct a barrister at an appropriate time in a case.  This is for the very good reason that barristers are not geared up to deal directly with the public.  They are often out at court, and they are self-employed individuals who do not employ assistants and secretaries to deal with queries while they are out at court.

In some court hearings barristers have to wear wigs and gowns, but in many hearings now they just wear business suits.

Your solicitor may arrange a conference with a barrister that may take part at the solicitor’s office or the barrister’s chambers, to prepare for a hearing.  All this will be done through the solicitor, and the barrister will not take calls from you directly about it afterwards.