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What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?


 

The common answer to the above question is that the barrister appears in Court to present a case and the solicitor is involved in conducting the case behind the scenes and instructs a barrister.


There is some truth in the above answer, but it is not entirely accurate as the answers to the short questions below will illustrate; essentially the distinction between the two professions is eroding, although they remain subject to different regulators, solicitors are regulated by Solicitor’s Regulation Authority and Barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board.  The questions and answers pertain to England and Wales.

 

Do barristers and solicitors have the same rights of audience in Court?


No, a barrister can appear in any Court in England and Wales whereas a solicitor can only appear in lower Courts, namely the County Court in civil matters and the Magistrates Court in criminal matters.


Solicitors cannot appear in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court or the Crown Court. 


However, there is an exception to this, namely if the solicitor obtains ‘Higher Rights of Audience’; based on the writer’s experience (the process may have changed) this involves attending a course and completing practical and written examinations.


Do barristers and solicitors conduct litigation?


Solicitors are entitled and usually do conduct litigation.  Barristers are not entitled to conduct litigation unless they have special permission from the Bar Council.

JSC Chambers has such permission.   


Do I need to instruct both a solicitor and a barrister?


Not necessarily.  Solicitors may be able to conduct the case without instructing a barrister.  A direct access barrister may be able to assist you as a litigant in person who is conducting the case yourself without the involvement of a solicitor.  Alternatively, a barrister could conduct the litigation, if they have the requisite permission from the Bar Council.


Both professions are well regulated and require significant expertise to qualify.  Solicitors tend to have higher overheads and thus are sometimes more expensive to instruct.  There may be rare cases where considerable resources are required, e.g. a team of paralegals led by a solicitor.  Such cases would require a well-resourced firm of solicitors. 


At JSC Chambers we offer extremely low fees, which are usually fixed.  This is because we have a simple but effective business model with low overheads.  We do not have a central office, but we have access to legal resources that are not available to the general public and have an effective case management system.  Further, unlike traditional barristers chambers we do not have clerks who command high fees for fee negotiation or chambers management.         

 

  

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