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Legal Profession in England and Wales

Professional Titles


Throughout the world, the word “lawyer” is used to mean someone who has legal knowledge or who is engaged in the practice of law. Those unfamiliar with the legal system are often confused by the variety of titles used for members of the legal professions. There are many English words which may denote a lawyer, and different jurisdictions use different titles for lawyers: “advocate, attorney, barrister, solicitor”.

For example, a lawyer in the United States is often called an “attorney”, which in England is a title formerly used by solicitors.

Most countries have different groups of lawyers who each take a particular kind of examination in order to qualify to do particular jobs.

In Japan, a lawyer must decide whether he wants to take the examination to become an attorney, a public prosecutor or a judge.

In England, the decision is between becoming a barrister or a solicitor.


Advocate   2 A person who assists, defends, pleads, or prosecutes for another;  
Agent   One who is authorized to act for or in place of another.
Arbitrator   A neutral person chosen to resolve disputes between parties, especially by means of formal arbitration.
Attorney 1 In American English a lawyer.  
Attorney- general 2 The chief law officer of a state or of the US, responsible for advising the government on legal matters and representing it in litigation (US).
Barrister   . Barristers defend or prosecute in the higher courts. Barristers are different from solicitors. Barristers are experts in the interpretation of the law. They are called in to advise on really difficult points. The barrister is also an expert on advocacy (the art of presenting cases in court).
Coroner   A public official whose duty is to investigate the causes and circumstances of any death that occurs suddenly, suspiciously or violently. Coroners have medical or legal training (or both).
Detective   A presiding court officer with authority to hear and decide cases in a lawcourt, elected or appointed.  
Investigator   A lower court trial lawyer who prepares legal documents, advise clients, and sometimes speaks for them in the courts; prepares cases for barristers in the higher courts.  


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Legal Profession in England and Wales


A distinctive feature of the legal profession in England and Wales is that it is divided into two groups: barristers and solicitors. This division has frequently been the focus of debate and criticism and there have been calls for the fusion of the two branches of the profession.

In the popular mind, the distinction between barristers and solicitors is that the former are concerned with advocacy in court while the latter are concerned with legal work out of court. This is not quite the case. Barristers are primarily concerned with advocacy and they have an exclusive right of audience in the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords; but they are not confined to advocacy and may devote a deal of their time to giving expert opinions on legal matters. Nor are solicitors exclusively concerned with out-of-court work for they have a right of audience in magistrates’ courts, county courts and, in some instances, in the Crown Court.

Solicitors are the ‘general practitioners’ in law and in most cases a solicitor is the usual first point of access for a client needing legal services in the United Kingdom. Solicitors give legal advice and prepare legal documents in connection with matters which do not necessarily come to court, such as buying a home, renting out one’s property, renting a home, making a will, getting a divorce, resolving problems at work, setting up in business. They also prepare cases for barristers to conduct in court.

Solicitors generally practise in partnerships and some of the partnerships are now very large multinational organizations.

The Law Society reports that for Solicitors, the numbers are 92,753 in England and Wales with 34,693 of those in Greater London.

Barristers are experts in the interpretation of law and advocacy – the art of presenting cases in court. Barristers work mainly in the courts and tribunals. Their work includes presenting evidence, making submissions on behalf of their clients, representing parties in criminal trials, handling domestic disputes in Family Courts, dealing with civil claims for damages and compensation.

Barristers have a relationship with solicitors which is very much akin to that of specialist consultants in medicine to the family doctor. By having such specialists as an independent pool of expertise, the solicitor can choose the best qualified barrister in a specialist area.

Barristers may not practice in partnerships. Instead, they share offices (which they call Chambers) with other barristers, but it is a sharing of expenses only, not of income.

The number of barristers practising in England and Wales is 14,000, with 7,200 of those in Greater London.

These are the two principal branches of the legal profession in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems, similar but not identical.

Nowadays, the division between solicitors and barristers is quite vague, but generally their functions in law are supposed to be different.


Date: 2015-12-24; view: 2435

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