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‘Solicitors’, ‘Lawyers’, ‘Barristers’: What’s The Difference?

The legal sector can be confusing and when you’re making a claim or thinking about making a claim you might get a bit flustered with all the legal terminology being thrown at you. You’ll have words like Solicitor, Lawyer, Barrister and County Court thrown at you but what you’re probably asking is what do they mean and what’s the difference? Most people have a very basic understanding but to the average Joe, they don’t actually mean much!

We’d like to give you an insight into what some of these mean; if you’re making a claim with us or plan on making a claim then these could come in very handy. Alternatively, if you’re just passing us by then it’s a little bit of extra knowledge for you!

Starting with the most important parts, particularly when making a claim you’ll be bombarded with the words solicitor and maybe even barrister if your case is taken to court. The word Lawyer won’t usually crop up much as it’s a very general term in the industry.

What’s a Lawyer? How is it different to a Solicitor?

Why would people use a Lawyer? The term Lawyer is probably used more commonly over in the USA, it’s used occasionally in the UK, but the term generally means anyone who is a licensed legal practitioner who is qualified to give legal advice in a certain area of law. If we were to be technical, both Solicitors and Barristers are classed as Lawyers; that’s one area cleared up!

So what does a Solicitor do?

Solicitors are an integral part of the industry and an integral part of Jefferies. We’ve got an excellent team of qualified solicitors who specialise in a wide range of areas including personal injury, clinical negligence etc. But you might be asking what they do and what does their role entail as a solicitor?

A solicitor is the main point of contact and usually the first point of contact when starting any legal case. When starting legal action the solicitor will advise the client on what the best course of action is in the area of expertise. Solicitors in the United Kingdom vary in the work they do, some focus on contentious work such as litigation (take action against individuals or organisations) and some do non-contentious work such as wills, conveyancing and other commercial work.

The Solicitor normally always deals directly with the client and you’ll end up liaising a lot with your Solicitor. They will take necessary actions for the client, advise clients on necessary legal actions and be a representative for the client in their case. The Solicitor also deals with all the paperwork for the client and communications between parties. They write documents, letters and contracts specific to the client and case in question making sure everything is prepared for the case and court if necessary.

Solicitors represent their clients throughout the process of the case. If the case goes to court then sometimes the Solicitor will represent the client but in most cases, they will instruct a Barrister to appear in court for the client.

Alongside all this, the Solicitor also negotiates the objectives of the case with the client and the other parties, calculate damage claims such as compensation, maintenance, loss of earning etc., and also make sure agreements are implemented fully and properly. Our Solicitors here at Jefferies deal mainly with personal injury, clinical negligence and catastrophic injury claims (including those involving brain or spinal injuries).

What’s a Barrister and what do they do?

A Barrister, in general, provides specialist legal advice on the certain area of their expertise, in the case of Jefferies Solicitors, it would be personal injury. A Barrister also represents their client in court and in tribunals and through written legal advice.

Barristers work in higher levels of court than solicitors and their main role is to be a representative in legal hearings. Barristers also have a further knowledge in law and their area of expertise. Barristers don’t usually come into contact with the client before any hearing date unlike the solicitor, they’re usually just given details of the case by the Solicitor and then they will review the case and evidence ready to present their defence in court.

Another interesting point about Barristers you might not know is that they’re the ones who wear the wigs in court!

One thing you’ll also find with Barristers is that the majority are self-employed. Barristers also tend to work in offices called Chambers. They share these with other Barristers and pretty awkwardly sometimes you find Barristers fighting each side of a case in Chambers!

Barristers have to follow a rule in which they can’t pick or choose cases. It basically means they cannot refuse a case if they do not agree with certain aspects i.e. they don’t agree with the client’s opinion.

There we are, we’ve covered the difference between Barristers, Solicitors and Lawyers now let’s move on to the different types of courts. When watching the news you’ll always hear different types of courts popping up, wonder what the difference is and then brush it off as chances are you won’t need to know. Even here at Jefferies, in most of our cases we try and avoid going to court and have a track record of a lot being settled outside of court, it makes the process a lot smoother and cheaper for all parties involved. The case will only ever make it to court if the opposing party is in a disagreement.

Magistrates Court

The Magistrates Court is only for criminal matters and does not deal with personal injury. All criminal cases start in the Magistrates court no matter how big or small. In this instance there are 3 types of criminal offences; some must be dealt with in the Crown Court, some must be dealt with in the Magistrates court and some can be dealt with in either (the defendant will get to choose which one if they have the choice).

Crown Court

The Crown Court also only deals with criminal matters, the defendant here also has a right to a jury trial.

County Court

This is the most used court in England & Wales, cases dealt with here are often between the value of £5,000 and £15,000 and are known as fast-track cases. The majority of personal injury cases will be dealt with here. Cases between £15,000 and £50,000 can also be dealt with in the County Court if they are not complex cases or the courts do not feel it is in the public interest for them to be heard at the High Court.

High Court

The High Court deals with sophisticated and high-value claims as well as cases that have been appealed from the County Court.

If you’ve been in an accident in the past 3 years, phone Jefferies Solicitors for free on 0800 342 3206 or get in touch online.

Published on 17th November 2015.