Samuel Okoronkwo

Fill in the form below and one of our specialist clerks will get in touch.

What Is the Difference Between a Solicitor and a Barrister?

In this article, I will be explaining the main difference between a solicitor and a barrister. 

The most prominent difference between the two is that barristers generally have ‘rights of audience’ in court, meaning they can address a judge directly. Another notable difference is that solicitors more often undertake their work outside of the courtroom. 


Let’s delve into their differences a little deeper…


What is a solicitor? 

Solicitors are qualified legal professionals and can work for a range of organisations. This includes the government, high street firms, commercial, non-commercial firms and more. They have specialist knowledge in various practice areas and often work directly with and advise clients, engage in settlement negotiations and draft legal documents. The role is primarily desk-based but involves travelling when they need to see a client or represent their clients in court. 


What is a barrister? 

Barristers are qualified legal professionals and are noticeably distinguishable from solicitors. This is because they wear a wig and gown in court and work at higher levels of court than solicitors. The wigs signify their anonymity and disaffection from personal involvement with the case. Their main role is to act as advocates in hearings, where they stand in court and plead on behalf of their client in front of a judge. Similar to solicitors, barristers have specialist knowledge of various practice areas, which is why they are often called upon to provide legal advice. The majority of barristers are self-employed and work in Chambers under a tenancy with other barristers. Which they can gain a permanent position in upon the completion of their training. Barristers can prosecute, defend or pursue a claim and they also represent corporations as well as people.


In the event of a dispute…

Solicitors represent their clients and can do so in court if they obtain the rights of the audience. However, barristers are able to work in a significantly higher level of court than solicitors. When a case proceeds to court it is unlikely that a solicitor will represent their client, even if they have rights of audience. This is because they often refer the work to a barrister or a specialist advocate, for expert advice or to instruct them to appear in court to represent the client. 

Barristers usually do not come into contact with the public as much as solicitors, except in the event of a direct access barrister. In most cases, they are given instructions by solicitors and are allocated time to review the evidence and prepare their arguments and opinions in readiness to plead the same in court. Following this, they will negotiate settlements with the other side.


How do you become a solicitor? 

The route to becoming a solicitor consists of either completing a vocational 1 -2 year course called the Legal Practice Course (“LPC”) following the completion of a Law degree (“LLB”) or Graduate Diploma in Law (“GDL”). Once the LPC is complete you must complete a two-year training contract to qualify as a solicitor. A newly introduced, alternative route to becoming a solicitor after your LLB or GDL and two years of qualifying legal work experience is the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (“SQE”), which consists of two stages and you must pass to qualify as a solicitor. 


How do you become a barrister? 

To become a barrister you must have an LBB or a non-law degree and a law conversion course such as a GDL. The next steps are to apply for and complete mini-pupillages and the vocational component of barrister training before joining one of the Inns of Court (which must be done before commencing the vocational component of training). Then you must sit the Bar Course Aptitude Test (“BCAT”) during the summer preceding the commencement of your vocational training. Complete the vocational training, apply for pupillages in chambers or in-house and complete your pupillage before you can qualify as a barrister and apply for tenancy in Chambers.


In need of a Barrister? 

A change in the law in 2004 allowed barristers, who have undertaken additional training, to advise clients at first instance without the need for a solicitor. So, at Mercantile Barristers our members have gained additional qualifications and are able to undertake both solicitor and barrister work. 


Now, we boast a new brand of modern barristers’ chambers…

Our consultation process not only gives you direct access to legal expertise but also lowers the cost of your legal processes since clients can instruct a barrister directly, rather than through a solicitor only.

So, if you are looking for representation from a forward-thinking barrister, without the hassle of going through a solicitor, we can help. 

Make an Enquiry

Contact our
Barristers Today

mercantile barristers
Contact Us
10-11 Gray’s Inn Square
London, WC1R 5JD

+44 (0) 20 3034 0077

Open Mon-Fri: 8:30am – 6:30pm

© 2024 Mercantile Barristers. All rights reserved | Cookies Policy | Privacy Policy 

Mercantile Barristers is Registered in England & Wales Number: 10211382.