Lawyer is a general term for a person who gives legal device and aid and who conducts suits in court.
What’s the difference between lawyer and attorney?
An attorney or, more correctly, an attorney-at-law, is a member of the legal profession who represents a client in court when pleading or defending a case. In the US, attorney applies to any lawyer. The word attorney comes from French meaning ‘one appointed or constituted’ and the word’s original meaning is of a person acting for another as an agent or deputy.
Barristers vs. solicitors
In the UK, those who practice law are divided into barristers, who represent clients in open court and may appear at the bar, and solicitors, who are permitted to conduct litigation in court but not to plead cases in open court. The barrister does not deal directly with clients but does so through a solicitor.
What’s a counsel?
A solicitor would be the UK equivalent of the US attorney-at-law. Counsel usually refers to a body of legal advisers but also pertains to a single legal adviser and is a synonym for advocate, barrister, counselor, and counselor-at-law.
As to the abbreviation ‘Esq.’ for ‘Esquire’ used by some lawyers, it has no precise significance in the United States except as sometimes applied to certain public officials, such as justices of the peace. For some reason, lawyers often add it to their surname in written address. However, it is a title that is specifically male with no female equivalent, so its use by lawyers should fade away.
What does a Barrister do?
In general, Barristers in England & Wales are hired by Solicitors to represent a case in Court and only become involved once advocacy before a Court is needed. The role of a Barrister is to «translate and structure their client’s view of events into legal arguments and to make persuasive representations which obtain the best possible result for their client.»
Barristers usually specialise in particular areas of law such as criminal law, chancery law (estates and trusts), commercial law, entertainment law, sports law and common law; which includes family law and divorce, housing and personal injury law.
Although a Barrister’s work will vary considerably depending on their level of expertise and the area of law in which they practice, they will typically advise clients on the law and the strength of their case and provide them with a written ‘opinion’. Barristers will advocate on behalf of their clients and the client’s Solicitor in Court, presenting their case, examining and cross-examining witnesses and giving reasons why the Court should support the case. They will then negotiate settlements with the other side.
Out of the estimated 15,500 Barristers practising in England & Wales, around 80% are self-employed. Other Barristers are employed, for example, in Solicitors’ firms advising clients directly, or in agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), or in specialist legal departments in industry, commerce, charities or central or local government; advising only the organisations they work for.
On the whole, self-employed Barristers work in offices known as Chambers which they may share with other Barristers. After completing their training, many gain permanent positions known as tenancy in a ‘set’ of Chambers.
As Barristers within a Chambers are all independent from one another they can often act on different sides in the same legal dispute. In contrast, Solicitors working at the same law firm would be prevented from doing the same as there would be a conflict of interest.
Barristers are kept independent and prevented from picking and choosing the cases they want to work on by what is known as the Cab Rank Rule. The Cab Rank Rule prohibits a Barrister from refusing a case if, for example, they found the nature of the case objectionable or if they think the client has unacceptable conduct, opinions or beliefs or simply due to the source of the funding.
Generally self-employed Barristers cannot be instructed directly by clients as they first need to be briefed by a Solicitor. However, the exception to this is if the barrister is a member of the Public Access Scheme which enables a member of the public to go directly to a Barrister for legal advice or representation.
For more information call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0808 175 8000 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.