Barrister vs Solicitor: Understanding the Difference

barrister vs solicitor

The legal professions of solicitors and barristers in countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland, and some Commonwealth countries are distinct, each with its own roles and responsibilities. Here’s an overview for understanding the differences between a barrister vs solicitor:

Educational and Training Requirements

  • Solicitors: Typically, solicitors complete a law degree followed by a Legal Practice Course (LPC). After this, they must undertake a period of training known as a training contract with a law firm. This period includes practical experience and professional development.
  • Barristers: Barristers generally start with a law degree as well, but then they complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). Following this, they must secure a ‘pupillage’ (a type of apprenticeship) in barristers’ chambers, which is highly competitive and lasts for one year, divided into two six-month periods.

Work and Responsibilities

  • Solicitors: They are often the first point of contact for clients. Solicitors provide legal advice, draft legal documents, negotiate on behalf of clients, and handle general legal matters. They can represent clients in lower courts but typically instruct a barrister for more complex cases in higher courts.
  • Barristers: Specialising in advocacy and representing individuals or entities in courts, barristers are usually engaged by solicitors to provide expert legal opinions and to argue a case in court. They are known for their expertise in litigation, understanding of court procedures, and skills in oral advocacy.

Rights of Audience

  • Solicitors: Traditionally, solicitors had limited rights of audience in court. However, the introduction of Solicitor Advocates has allowed some solicitors to gain extended rights of audience in higher courts.
  • Barristers: Barristers have full rights of audience in all courts. They are the legal professionals typically seen wearing wigs and gowns in courtrooms, especially in more serious or complex cases.

Client Interaction

  • Solicitors: They usually have more direct and ongoing interactions with clients, managing cases and providing legal advice throughout the process.
  • Barristers: Direct client contact for barristers is less frequent. They are typically briefed by solicitors and may meet with clients, but their primary focus is on advocacy and strategic legal thinking in relation to court proceedings.

Practice Structure

  • Solicitors: They often work within law firms or for various organisations in-house, offering a wide range of legal services.
  • Barristers: Barristers are mostly self-employed and work in shared offices known as ‘chambers’. Some may be employed by organisations or the government.


  • Solicitors: While solicitors can specialise in various areas of law, they generally have a broader practice scope.
  • Barristers: They often specialise in specific areas of law, providing expert advice and representation in their chosen field.

In summary, while both solicitors and barristers play critical roles in the legal system, their functions, training, and day-to-day activities differ significantly. This separation ensures a high level of specialisation and expertise, especially in court proceedings, while also providing clients with comprehensive legal services from the initial advice stage through to courtroom representation.

If you would like to learn more about become a solicitor please visit our Solicitor Apprenticeship page.

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