Solicitor or barrister – what’s the difference?

There are occasions when your solicitor will suggest you appoint a barrister to represent you at a court hearing or that you get the opinion of a barrister of a specific complex issue.

Traditionally, barristers would represent clients in all court proceedings, and solicitors would be behind the scenes working on all other aspects of the case. As the years have gone on, many solicitors now represent clients at most hearings as well as working directly with the client and seeing the case from start to finish.

Solicitors who specialise in certain areas of law will often represent their clients at court as well as preparing their case behind the scenes. However, in complex cases, solicitors may advise their clients to instruct a barrister who specialises in that area as they are trained to represent clients in court only.

It is important to note that in most cases, barristers can only be instructed by a solicitor and not directly by the client. There are some situations now following the Direct Access scheme that allows a client to instruct certain barristers directly, although this remains uncommon.

Like solicitors, a barrister’s work and performance at court varies depending on their level of expertise. Most barristers are self-employed and use a set of chambers as an office which they share with other self employed barristers whereas solicitors are employees of their firm.

As most barristers are self-employed, this means that another barrister in the same set of chambers could represent the other party, even if one barrister is already representing one party. Solicitors working in the same firm typically would not be able to represent opposing parties.

Barristers will often deal with one case at a time. When a court hearing is over, he or she will send any paperwork back to the solicitor who instructed him or her. The solicitor will continue with the case and the barrister may or may not be instructed for the next hearing, depending on how the client and/or the solicitor felt the barrister represented the client at the hearing.

Barristers often therefore come into a case solely to represent a client at a hearing but will not know the outcome of that case. Solicitors will represent the client from start to finish.

Instructing a solicitor who has a wide bank of barristers and a good relationship with different sets of chambers is important to ensure that a client is well represented. At Hunter & Uro, our specialist family solicitors can represent you at most hearings but if not, we have a wide range of preferred barristers who we know can provide solid legal arguments and persuasive representation for your case at court. Serving Bedford, and London, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters.  Contact us on 01234 889777 or 0207 177 9777 for more information and a free consultation.


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