What is the difference between solicitor and barrister?
Solicitor and barrister have a different meaning, in American and British English.
In British English, they mean:
- Solicitor: a member of the legal profession qualified to deal with conveyancing, the drawing up of wills, and other legal matters.
- Barrister: a lawyer entitled to practice as an advocate, particularly in the higher courts.
In American English, they mean:
- Solicitor: a person who tries to obtain business orders, advertising, etc.; a canvasser; the chief law officer of a city, town, or government department.
Barrister is not used, in American English.
[Reference: the New Oxford American Dictionary.]
They are both lawyers, but a barrister has passed the Bar.
The Bar is an examination (from Wikipedia):
A bar examination is an examination conducted at regular intervals to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction.
This depends on the country.
In Australia most lawyers are solicitors. You cannot call yourself a lawyer until you have been admitted by the court, and when you are you become a solicitor. Anyone wanting any legal services will go to a solicitor.
Barristers usually don't deal directly with clients but instead are employed by other legal firms. They are hired by law firms on behalf of their clients to represent them in court. Barristers will need a great knowledge of the law, and will help their clients (the solicitors) decide what type of argument to present. They will usually not research the evidence for the case which must be provided by the law firm. And lastly most barristers are self-employed, whereas most solicitors work in law firms.
A humorous example of the difference between solicitors and barristers is in the movie The Castle when a local solicitor is hired to take a case to the High Court of Australia and is completely out of his depth! Luckily a retired Queen's Counsel (and barrister) helps them with their case.