What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?

The legal profession in England and Wales is famously split. Why is this?

The simple answer is that barristers tend to appear in court (known as having the right of audience) as advocates on behalf of their clients while solicitors are more involved “behind-the-scenes” with case preparation but there is a little more detail than that. Read on…

There are around 160,000 solicitors working in England and Wales. There are around 15,000 barristers.

What does a barrister do?

If you walk into the main criminal court (the Crown Court) of any city or stand in the atrium of the Court of Appeal in The Strand in London then you will see a barrister at work. They will usually be wearing their robe and gown and occasionally be carrying legal documents wrapped in a pink ribbon. While some of their work involves representing clients in court, solicitors also ask them for specialist legal advice.

You’ll find barristers in many common law systems that favour the adversarial approach to trials. This barrister is from the Irish Republic.

If you visit London, take some time to walk around the Inns of Court. These are four villages within the city where barristers have their offices (known as ‘Chambers’). Try and visit the halls where barristers meet for their famed dinners.

And if your case is serious, your solicitor will instruct a barrister to plead the case in court or request more specialist advice.

What do solicitors do?

You’ll find solicitors in every high street in England and Wales. You’ll need them if you buy a property, commit a crime, get a divorce or write a will. In short, you’ll need them at least once in your life.

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter

Get our latest news and content delivered directly to your inbox.