What’s the Difference Between a Lawyer and a Solicitor?

What’s the Difference Between a Lawyer and a Solicitor?

If you require legal advice or representation, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting the support you need from the right professionals, at the right time. For many, the first step in achieving this is knowing whether you need support from a lawyer or solicitor.

Here, we take a closer look at the difference between the two, helping you understand which types of legal professionals could be involved in assisting you with your case.

What is a Lawyer?

What many don’t realise is that ‘lawyer’ is much more of an American term than it is a British one. Here in the UK, ‘lawyer’ is not used to describe a specific role or position within the legal system, but is instead used as an umbrella term that covers anyone working as a legal practitioner. Solicitors, barristers, conveyancers, advocates, arbitrators, and chartered legal executives are all types of lawyer. According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority or SRA, ‘lawyer has no defined meaning in UK law’.

What is a Solicitor?

A solicitor is a type of lawyer that provides expert, tailored legal advice for clients, often from the earliest stages of a potential case. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and will often become involved in a case immediately following an allegation, working with clients through the 28 day bail period. A solicitor can also act as the first point of contact for disputes relating to family or commercial matters.

Typically, a solicitor will:

  • Listen to the client’s case and gain an understanding of the situation
  • Create and manage necessary paperwork for the case
  • Gather necessary information relating to the situation
  • Provide accurate and impartial legal advice to the client
  • Communicate and negotiate with opposing parties
  • Prepare papers for court if necessary

Ultimately, a solicitor’s role is to advise on the necessary course of legal action. For example, while it may feel as though your case can only be resolved in court, solicitors will often seek alternative solutions in the first instance, such as mediation, to help you settle outside of court. By avoiding stressful court proceedings, alternative courses of legal action can sometimes help to achieve satisfactory outcomes on both sides.

As solicitors primarily work outside of the courts, they can work across a very broad spectrum, handling cases that do not require court proceedings. For example, solicitors may become involved in drafting contracts, overseeing property sales, and more.

However, in some instances a satisfactory outcome may only be achievable through the courts. In some situations (particularly in family law), a solicitor may be able to represent their client in court. But in more complex cases, a solicitor may choose to instruct a specialist barrister to work alongside them. Any Barrister that is instructed will be something your solicitor consults with you about.

What is a Barrister?

A Barrister is regulated by the Bar Standard Board, and does not usually become involved in a case until the case reaches court. At this time, solicitors can choose to instruct a Barrister who acts as a client’s voice during court hearings. While a solicitor’s role is to advise, support, and guide the client to reach a suitable resolution, the role of the barrister is specifically helpful in translating the client’s situation and perspective into a fully formed and persuasive legal argument in the courtroom.

Typically, a barrister will:

  • Research cases and prepare legal documents for court
  • Work closely with solicitors to gain a full understanding of the client’s position
  • Represent and advocate for the client in court
  • Communicate with witnesses and gather evidence from court proceedings
  • Act as a negotiator between the client and opposing parties

Both barristers and solicitors will usually specialise in specific areas of law, such as family law or crime, for example. A solicitor will instruct a barrister that is highly experienced in the relevant area to ensure that their clients are adequately represented in the courts.

What do I Need?

In the first instance, it is important to reach out to a solicitor that specialises in the relevant area of law. Your solicitor can advise you on your next steps, and work with you to determine if you may need a barrister further down the line if the case goes to court. Solicitors will usually be assisted by other lawyers, such as paralegals and trainee solicitors; creating a dedicated legal team to support you through your legal needs.

What we do

At National Legal Service, we’ve built a strong team of solicitors specialising in family law, crime, and extradition. Our experts work closely with clients to support them, advise them, and navigate them towards a suitable, satisfactory outcome. Sometimes, this may be achieved out of court. At other times, court proceedings may be necessary.

Should this happen, our solicitors can help to prepare you for court, and may be able to represent you throughout proceedings. In more complex situations, we may refer to a specialist advocate or barrister trained in advocating for clients in front of a judge.

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