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What is a Barrister?

In England and Wales (and countries based on the British system), legal counsel is made up of two litigating professions: solicitors and barristers. A barrister is a type of lawyer in a common law jurisdiction. A barrister specializes in courtroom advocacy; as a courtroom advocate, a barrister will draft legal pleadings and provide expert legal opinions. Because of this function, a barrister is held separate from a solicitor—another class of legal aid—who is directly connected with a client. A barrister is rarely hired by a client directly; barristers are retained by solicitors to act on behalf of a client.

A barrister is a lawyer authorized to practice before the bar. A solicitor will draft wills, contracts and deeds, while meeting with clients and alleged criminals. After the paperwork has been completed, the solicitor will choose a barrister to go before the bar and advocate on behalf of the client.

A solicitor is an attorney; these professionals can act in the place of their client to conduct litigation. To act in place of their client, the solicitor will provide applications to the court and write letters to the opposing side. In contrast, a barrister is not an attorney and is typically forbidden from conducting litigation. This characteristic denotes the core function of the barrister; while the individual is able—according to law or professional rules—to speak on the client’s behalf in a court setting, the barrister is only permitted to do so when instructed by a solicitor or a qualified professional, such as a patent agent. That being said, a number of countries, including the United States, do not observe the distinction between solicitors and barristers.

A barrister is regulated by the Bar only for the jurisdiction where they practice. In some jurisdictions, the barrister will be regulated by the Inn of Court to which they practice. Inns of Court will regulate admission to the profession. These courts are independent organizations are responsible for training, calling and disciplining the barristers. The bar will collectively describe members of the profession within a given jurisdiction.

How is a Barrister Different from a Solicitor?

In essence, a barrister is the lawyer who will represent litigants as their advocate before a court. A barrister will speak in court and present the case before a jury and/or judge. In contrast, a solicitor will engage in detailed preparatory work to provide advice. A solicitor will draft and review legal documents, receive and respond to instructions delivered from their clients, prepare evidence, and manage the day-to-day administration of legal matters.

A solicitor will provide support to barristers in court; solicitors will manage large volumes of legal documents and negotiate settlements outside the court.

Barristers typically have rights of audience in higher courts, whereas other legal aids will have more limited actions or will require additional qualifications to be awarded such a right. In most jurisdictions, a barrister will operate as a sole practitioner—barristers are typically prohibited from forming partnerships.

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