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What is the difference between a barrister and solicitor

Nick Singer

17 May 2018

The basic difference

The basic difference between barristers and solicitors is that a barrister mainly provides the advocacy at the tribunal as well as providing specialist advice and a solicitor mainly performs legal work preparation work in preparation for the tribunal. However, there are exceptions in both cases.


Solicitors can work for a big range of organizations, including commercial or non-commercial law firms, the government, private businesses, banks, and corporations. They have specialist knowledge of different areas of the law including employment.

Most of the time solicitors advise clients, undertake negotiations and draft legal documents and run the case up to the employment tribunal. It is primarily a desk job but does involve travelling to see clients and sometimes representing them in the tribunal.


Barristers can be distinguished from a solicitor because they provide mainly advocacy work at the tribunal and only get involved either for providing specialist advice or at the court itself. They work at higher levels of court than solicitors and their main role is to act as advocates in legal hearings, which means they stand in court and plead the case on behalf of their clients in front of a judge. They also have specialist knowledge of the law and so are often called on to give legal advice.

Most barristers are self-employed and work in Chambers with other barristers so they can share costs of accommodation and administrators. They can also be employed in-house as advisors by banks, corporations, and solicitors firms.


Both barristers and solicitors start off doing the same training: they either complete an undergraduate course in law or take another degree and follow it with the one-year Common Professional Exam or Post-Graduate Diploma in Law. After that, solicitors do a one-year Legal Practice Course followed by a two-year training contract.

A barrister must take a one-year Bar Professional Training Course in place of the Legal Practice Course, and then they are ‘called to bar’ at one of the four Inns where they do a year’s pupillage shadowing a senior barrister and undertaking some court work. They can then join a set of Chambers as a fully-fledged self-employed barrister

Expert employment barrister Nick Singer explains the difference between a barrister and solicitor.

Video transcript

Hello, my name is Mark Ferron MD of Castle Associates, if you like to know the difference between a solicitor and barrister, then please watch this short video and expert barrister Nick Singer will explain.

The difference is becoming a narrower and narrower but traditionally what would happen, is you firstly go to a solicitor about the problem. The solicitor would go through it and they would run the case and then they would go to the barrister for specialist advice service, perhaps a specialist opinion, perhaps to draft court documents or tribunal documents and obviously the barrister would mainly do the advocacy. Now that has changed in recent years solicitors are doing more advocacy, barristers now can do have actually since nineteen ninety been able to do but it's becoming bigger something called public access, where members of the public can go straight to a barrister without going to a solicitor. So as I say the roles are becoming less defined but broadly barristers do advocacy and specialist advice and solicitors run the case and get it ready for a tribunal.

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