Solicitors and Barristers in the UK

Traditionally lawyers are trained in all the key areas of law before opting to specialize in a particular field, allowing them to become legal experts in that discipline. In Britain, the legal profession is made up of many individuals who can be described by the single name of lawyer, such as paralegals, legal executives, licensed conveyancers, patent and trademark attorneys and notaries. The most notable distinction is between the two oldest strands of the legal profession, that of solicitors and barristers.

Barristers were historically those privies to the inner workings of the law courts. They would be able to provide expert legal advice on the likely outcome of a trial or provide advocacy before a judge that lay people or even UK Solicitors could not. The traditional role of the solicitor was one of an attorney, that is to say they would deal directly with a lay person to identify the nature of their problem and carry out preparatory work such as legal research and evidence gathering. They would then refer the case to a barrister on behalf of their client if they deemed it necessary. Even today it is necessary in most circumstances for a barrister to be instructed through a solicitor, though this is no longer true in all legal disputes like building dispute.


Lawyers in England and Wales are generally represented by either the Law Society of England and Wales (for solicitors) or the Bar Council (for barristers), though other regulatory bodies exist for other lawyers such as the Institute of Legal Executives. Education and qualifications are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and prospective lawyers must first have a qualifying law degree, or take a refresher course. Many lawyers in Bournemouth I spoke to were graduates of famous universities such as Durham, London and Oxford or Cambridge.

The Legal Complaints Service is an independent body to whom anyone dissatisfied with the manner in which their solicitor has handled their case may complain. The Bar Standards Board is the equivalent for barristers. Together with the representative bodies, these regulatory bodies form the complete set of professional standards for lawyers. It’s the same for all attorneys across the country, including Dorset lawyers.

After the initial euphoria of graduating, future lawyers wishing to enter practice as a solicitor must register as a student member of the Law Society and complete a year of study called the legal practice course. This is usually followed by two years of apprenticeship (called a training contract) before the solicitor is fully qualified to deal with clients unsupervised. It is necessary for all law firms to assure that their solicitors have successfully completed the academic and vocational stages of legal training.

Recent developments in legal practice in England and Wales (following the example of other jurisdictions) have shown that the strict separation between the duties of solicitors and barristers of old is of much less significance. Solicitors (so-called solicitor advocates) routinely appear in the lower courts and increasingly higher courts now that the law regulating higher rights of audience has changed. This trend is expected to continue in the years to come, with some predicting the end of the Bar.

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