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What is a Barrister?

Updated on April 3, 2010

A Barrister, in England and Wales, is counsel (lawyer) permitted to try cases in supe­rior courts. The legal profession in England and Wales is divided into two branches: barristers and solicitors. The legal professions in Scotland and Northern Ireland are separate, but similar. The Scottish equivalent of barrister is advocate.

In England and Wales there are about 2,000 barristers, all of whom have the right to appear in any court in those countries, from the House of Lords (the ultimate appellate court), the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the supe­rior criminal courts to the small local tribunals. Generally speaking, a barrister is employed in substantial civil actions, divorces, or major crimes, which can be tried in superior courts only. His services may be retained only through the agency of a solicitor.

The main role of barristers (except for a few specialists) is to prepare formal pleadings and to present and argue cases in court. The barris­ter works in conjunction with a litigant's solic­itor, who carries out the necessary pretrial in­vestigation and case preparation. Members of the English bar (barristers) practice from the Temple or Lincoln's Inn in London and belong to one of four ancient Inns of Court- Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, and the Inner and Middle Temples.

Solicitors are by far the more numerous branch of the legal profession in England and Wales. There were about 21,500 in the mid-1960's. They advise clients on everyday busi­ness, family, and property problems. The so­licitor may conduct lawsuits in the lower courts only, ranging from minor criminal prosecutions and matrimonial disputes in local magistrates' courts to lesser civil actions in the county courts. The solicitors' profession is regulated by the Law Society, which is responsible for discipline and the conduct of special qualifying examinations.

In the United States, the practical distinction between barristers and solicitors does not exist. A lawyer may advise clients and conduct lawsuits for them, or engage in any of the other branches of law.


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    • Law n Order profile image

      Law n Order 7 years ago

      Not to be confused with a barista!

    • Majidsiko profile image

      Majidsiko 7 years ago from Kenya

      Thanks. I really needed to know that. It was really bugging me.