What is the difference between solicitors and barristers?

People often get confused about the role of barristers and solicitors. In today’s blog we have a look at the major differences between the two.

What is a Barrister?

A barrister is a qualified legal professional who offers specialist advice whilst representing, advocating and defending their client in court or at a tribunal.

Many barristers specialise in one area of the law, although some may have a more general practice covering a variety of areas. 

How many Barristers are there in the UK?

There are currently approximately 16,000 qualified barristers in the UK.

I hear the term QC used sometimes. What does it mean?

QC is an abbreviation for the term Queen’s Counsel. A QC is a lawyer (usually a barrister) who is appointed by the monarch of the country to be one of “Her Majesty’s Counsel learned in the law

Queen’s Counsel is an office, conferred by the Crown, that is recognised by courts. The term is recognised as an honorific. As members wear silk gowns of a particular design, appointment as Queen’s Counsel is known informally as receiving, obtaining, or taking silk and QCs are often colloquially called silks. Appointments are made from within the legal profession on the basis of merit rather than a particular level of experience. However, successful applicants tend to be barristers with 15 years of experience or more.

How many QC’s are there in the UK?

Around 10% of qualified barristers have been appointed to the office of Queen’s Counsel.

What is a Solicitor?

A solicitor is a qualified legal practitioner who is responsible for preparing legal documentation. This can be conveyancing (the legal procedure involved in buying or selling a property), drawing up wills and dealing with probate, divorce or other family work and in advocacy, in the run up to and during a court case. A solicitor provides specialist legal advice on contentious and non-contentious work to their clients on a variety of areas of law.

The Difference Between Solicitor and Barrister Work

Put very simply, barristers tend to practise as advocates representing clients in court, whereas solicitors tend to perform the majority of their legal work in a law firm or office setting. There are, however, exceptions to this rule in both cases.

From an advocacy perspective, for example, the line between the two professions has become more blurred in recent times.

Solicitors can obtain ‘rights of audience’ which enables them to represent clients in court.

This means that solicitors can now perform many of the functions of a barrister up to a certain point, although barristers are able to work in a significantly higher level of court than their solicitor counterparts.

Although many solicitors do have rights of audience, the majority of them typically perform ‘behind the scenes’ type-work such as:

  • Advising people who come to them with legal issues
  • Holding negotiations and discussions between parties who are trying to reach agreement on a legal issue
  • Drafting and reviewing legal documents, such as contracts

How many solicitors are there in England and Wales?

There are approximately 140,000 solicitors practicing in the UK.


If you require the services of a solicitor practicing in England and Wales why not contact one of Alexander JLO’s experts and see what we can do for you?

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