Before practicing as a Solicitor or a Barrister there are specific training courses which need to be completed.
To qualify as a Solicitor, a pupil must first have A levels in order to go on to gain their Law degree. However it is possible for students to obtain a degree in another subject, then complete a one year Common Professional Examination (CPE) course. Once the pupil has obtained their law degree, or completed their CPE, they then must complete a one year Legal Practice Course before going on to a two-year training period. Once their training period is complete the pupil will then be then be qualified as a Solicitor.
Barristers must also complete a series of courses, which usually consist of A levels, a law degree or a degree in another subject and a Common Professional Examination. Although, unlike the Solicitor training route, it is possible for a non-graduate mature student to complete a two year Common Professional Examination course, which allows them to become a Member of an Inn Court. Once Membership has been granted the pupil will have to attend dinners at one of the four Inns which they are a member of. The Inns are; Lincolns Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn and are situated near the Royal Courts Of Justice in London. Pupils can also have the option of attending weekend courses if they do not wish to dine at the Inn Court.
Once this step is complete then a one year vocational training course or a Bar Examination Course must be completed before students are called to the Bar. Graduated students will then participate in a twelve month pupil age which will then go on to them being able to practice as a Barrister. However, for non-graduate students there is no pupilage available, instead they will have an occupation as a non-practicing Barrister.
The work of Solicitors and Barristers are different in many ways. Solicitors can either be self-employed or work in law firms. Some Solicitors need never attend court, for example a Solicitor who specialises in Wills and Probate or a Commercial Contracts Solicitor. The work of a Solicitor consists of; acting as a advocate in the Magistrates’ Court, drawing up and processing last will and testaments, divorce proceedings, tax issues, Conveyancing, land and tenant disputes and also personal injury claims. They also work in other areas of law, such as commercial contracts.
Barristers, on the other hand, are always self-employed. They work in Chambers and attend court to present cases. A Barristers work involves acting as an advocate, for their clients, in the Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court, as well as in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Barristers will also prepare ‘opinions’ which is their view on legal issues for clients and due to them having ‘specialist’ knowledge they are often asked if a case is worth pursuing. Prepare pre-trial paperwork to ensure the case they are working on is processed as efficiently as possible. Some Barristers, though not many, specialise in tax and company law which would result in them rarely appearing in court.
Both Solicitors and Barristers are governed by professional bodies. The Law Society governs Solicitors and gains its powers from The Solicitors Act 1974. Barristers are governed by the Bar Council.
Barristers have the right of audience as they present cases in court. However, it is now possible for Solicitors to have the right of audience under the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. This enables a Solicitor, in private practice, to apply for a Certificate of Advocacy. The certificate allows them to appear in the higher courts. However, the certificate will only be granted if the Solicitor has had experience of advocacy in the Magistrates’ Court and the County Court.
The Access of Justice Act 1999 (section 36) states that all Solicitors are automatically given the right of audience. However, due to modern conditions, additional training will eventually be expected to obtain these rights.
One job a Solicitor does which a Barrister does not is draw up a contract with their clients. A Barrister does not do this, which means that if the client does not pay their service fees the Barrister cannot sue them but, at the same time, it also means that clients cannot sue their Barrister for breach of contract.
Solicitors and Barristers can both be sued for negligence though. The Hall V Simmons (2000) case stated that the Supreme Court decided that advocates (Solicitors and Barristers) can be liable for negligence. In the case the Supreme Court Judges felt that due to modern conditions it was no longer in the public interest that advocates should have immunity from being sued for negligence.
In conclusion to this, statistics show that, in England and Wales, there are approximately 100,000 practicing Solicitors and 14,000 independent Barristers, of which 65% are male, 35% are female and around 11% are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The Legal Services Act 2007 have now made it acceptable for Solicitors and Barristers to enter a working partnership together.