What’s the difference between a solicitor, lawyer, and barrister?

You may have heard the terms solicitor, lawyer, and barrister being used, but what do they actually mean? And what are the differences between them? 

In popular culture, the terms appear somewhat interchangeable, but in reality there are key differences between their meaning and what each role entails.

This article defines each term and outlines the differences between them.

Topics to be answered in this article

What are the key differences?

A lawyer is a generic term for someone who studies and practices law to enable them to advise and assist clients with legal matters. Solicitors and barristers are both lawyers, but the tasks they carry out and their roles with clients are different. 

A key difference between a lawyer, barrister, and solicitor is that a solicitor is a lawyer who provides clients with legal advice, such as business contracts, Wills, divorce, inheritance, etc., whilst a barrister is a lawyer who is specialised in representing their clients in court.

What is a lawyer?

Lawyers can be qualified (e.g. solicitor, Chartered Legal Executive or Licensed Conveyancer) or they can be unqualified (e.g. paralegal). Lawyer work involves giving clients advice on legal matters and advocating for their rights and interests.

To find out more about how to become a lawyer, read our article.

What does a lawyer do?

On a day-to-day basis, lawyers will meet with clients, carry out legal research, and prepare and file court documents. The specific duties that they perform depends on the area in which a lawyer specialises.

Here at Goughs, the areas of law that lawyers specialise in include:

Our lawyers can also specialise in specific sectors, meaning that their clients belong to the following demographics:

This specialised approach allows lawyers to tailor their services more specifically to their clients, taking into account their individual circumstances and needs.

What is a solicitor?

A solicitor is a qualified member of the legal profession who is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). In the UK, the role of a solicitor is to take instructions from clients and advise them on the necessary course of legal action.

Solicitors work closely with clients and are likely to be their first point of contact. The issues that solicitors advise on range from personal matters (such as Wills and divorces) to corporate and commercial work (such as mergers and acquisitions).

What does a solicitor do?

Typical duties for a solicitor involve providing legal advice, writing and drafting legal documents, conducting research into legal legislation and meeting with clients. 

Nowadays it is normal for a solicitor to choose a certain practice area to work in upon qualification.  Some prefer to deal with private client work and may decide to work in Residential PropertyMatrimonial/Family work or WillsTrusts, and Probate. Others prefer more of a commercial leaning and may go into Real EstateEmployment, or Corporate teams. 

For everything you need to know about becoming a solicitor, click here.

What is a barrister?

barrister is a qualified legal professional who specialises in advocacy and is able to represent an individual or organisation in court. A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions, who mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation.

What does a barrister do?

Barristers are generally hired by solicitors on behalf of their clients. Like solicitors, barristers tend to specialise in one litigious area of law (e.g. Matrimonial/Family work, Criminal) and as well as representing clients in court, will also provide specialist legal advice and negotiate settlements. 

Many barristers are now self-employed and work in ‘chambers’. Some barristers are awarded Queen’s Counsel (QC) as a recognition for excellence in advocacy. They are seen as leaders in their area of law and will often take on more complex cases. 

Solicitors with higher rights of audience are also eligible to become QCs. 

Other legal terms you may have come across

Below you will find some other legal terms, which you may have come across, but are unsure of their meaning…

Conveyancer – a lawyer who provides advice and information on residential property work, such as buying and selling a property or the transfer of property ownership. 

BAR – this collectively describes all members of the barrister profession in England and Wales. When a barrister is formally recognised to have passed their vocational training, then they are called to the BAR by their In of Court. 

Chambers – is a group of independent practising barristers who have joined together. Chambers can also be the name given to a judge’s private office.

Prosecution – is the act of carrying out a legal action in court against a person accused of a crime.

Defence – this is put forward to defeat a suit or action brought against a party and can be based on legal grounds or factual claims.

Crown Court – deals with serious criminal cases or cases where the defendant has asked to have their case tried by a jury. Magistrates may send a case to Crown Court if they feel they do not have enough power to sentence the crime. 

Court of Appeal – hears appeals against both civil and criminal judgements from the Crown Court, High Court or County Courts of England and Wales. 

How can Goughs help?

If you require legal assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the form below or on info@goughs.co.uk.

Alternatively, if you’re interested in joining the Goughs team, please explore our opportunities here, or email recruitment@goughs.co.uk for more information.

Click to share this article

Author Bio

Lauren Bridger

I joined Goughs in February 2012 having previously spent five years working in accounts for a global insurance company.

I became an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2016 having completed the Level 3 Diploma in Human Resource Practice.

I undertake a very broad HR role within the firm, with a particular focus on working closely with the partners in attracting and selecting the right people to meet the firm’s strategic objectives. I also work closely with other members of the HR team on developing key processes to enhance the performance of the firm and make Goughs a positive, supportive working environment.

Related Content

Everything you need to know about becoming a solicitor

How to become a lawyer

Let us search for you