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  • 26 Sept 2022

    What is the difference between a lawyer, a solicitor, and a barrister?


    The word lawyer is mainly used in America to describe a legal professional but according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) the word has “no defined meaning in UK law”. 

    It is commonly used in the UK as an umbrella term to describe someone who works in the legal industry, for example:

    • Solicitors
    • Barristers
    • Conveyancers
    • Advocates
    • Arbitrators
    • Chartered legal executives


    A solicitor is a qualified legal professional who provides advice to clients typically from the earliest stages of a potential case. They often work for private firms although some may be employed by local authorities or in-house for companies, but all are regulated by the SRA.

    How to become a Solicitor

    1. Complete an LLB Law Degree or a Law conversion course.
    2. Take a 1–2-year vocational course called the Legal Practice Course.
    3. Traditionally, you would then complete a 2-year training contract at a law firm.
    4. Complete the Solicitors Qualifying Exam to become a fully qualified Solicitor.

    Types of Solicitors

    • Family Law – divorce, child arrangements, division of assets, change of name and more
    • Criminal Law – legal representation at Crown Prosecution Service trials.
    • Employment Law – discrimination claims, wrongful dismissal, settlement agreements and more.
    • Corporate Law – contracts, acquisitions, mergers and more.
    • Property Law (Residential and Commercial) – buying and selling properties, remortgages and more.
    • Wills, Trusts and Probate – drafting of Wills, power of attorney, estate management, grants of probate and more.
    • Litigation Law – landlord disputes, disputes over a Will, intellectual property and more.

    What does a Solicitor do?

    A solicitor works directly with the client from the beginning of a case, building and submitting their claim. They speak with the clients, take instructions, and advise them on the legal aspects of their matter. 

    Solicitors deal with all of the paperwork and communication between parties involved in a case, gathering witness statements, writing letters, constructing contracts, and submitting documents to the court. 

    They work to obtain a settlement outside of court, guided by the latest legal updates and knowledge of the proper proceedings of a case. 

    Depending on the case at hand, a solicitor may represent their client in court or at a tribunal.


    Generally, a barrister provides specialist legal advice and represents individuals and organisations in higher courts and tribunals. A majority of barristers in England are self-employed but they are affiliated with chambers which they share with other self-employed barristers.

    How to become a Barrister

    1. Complete an LLB Law degree or a Law conversion course.
    2. Complete the Bar training course and attend qualifying sessions in the Inn of Court.
    3. Undertake 1 year of pupillage which most often takes place in private chambers.
    4. Shadow a qualified barrister before getting involved with more practical work.

    Types of Barristers

    • Civil liberties & human rights – includes actions against the police and unlawful detention.
    • Competition law – includes regulatory work which involves commercial, public, and European law.
    • International arbitration – includes commercial disputes across multiple jurisdictions.
    • Chancery – includes trusts, probate and tax as well as finance and business disputes.
    • Public inquiry – includes high profile investigations into events of major public concern.

    What does a Barrister do?

    What a barrister does is largely dependent on their area of expertise and what level of experience they have. 

    As a general rule, barristers are appointed by solicitors to a case on behalf of a client. They are briefed by the solicitor and more often than not have no contact with the client directly. 

    Once appointed, a barrister advises on the law and helps to build and strengthen the case for the client. They provide what’s known as a “counsel’s opinion” which is a report that explains where you stand in a legal perspective. 

    Barristers also advocate for clients in courts and tribunals particularly if a case becomes more complex. They are the ones to plead your case to the judge and jury, presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and ensuring proper procedures are followed throughout.

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