The Differences Between Barristers and Solicitors

Read our guide to the difference between barristers and solicitors.


Both Barristers and Solicitors are Lawyers, but are different types of lawyers. In many cases Barristers and Solicitors work alongside one another and neither is automatically more senior than the other.

In England and Wales, there is a ‘split’ system meaning that labour is separated between Barristers and Solicitors – depending upon their specialisms. In some legal systems, such as that of the USA, there is a ‘fused’ system wherein Lawyers can complete all tasks, in essence covering the workloads of both the Barrister and Solicitor.

Employment Set-Up

One of the fundamental differences between Barristers and Solicitors in England and Wales is their employment status’. Barristers are always self-employed and trade as sole traders whereas Solicitors can be employed by a company or form partnerships. Barristers are not permitted to form partnerships or companies but can operate under one roof with other Barristers, known as a ‘Chambers’.

A Barristers’ Chambers are the grouping of professional rooms used by an association of Barristers. A group of Barristers in a Chambers are still independent from one another, meaning that they do not operate in tandem with one another and can even act on opposing sides in a dispute.


Barristers are traditionally specialist advocates or specialists in a particular area of the law. Barristers are often employed by the piece of work, helping at only relevant stages of a dispute. These Barristers are paid by the pieces of work that they complete. Often Barristers’ work will see them in court, discussing with other Barristers, dealing with witnesses, giving evidence and addressing the judge.

Whilst Solicitors in some cases do specialise, they will often be employed for the duration of a dispute as the primary litigator. This necessitates that Solicitors will work closely with the client, investigating the cases, completing the paperwork and communicating with rival solicitors.

Solicitors may seek the counsel of a Barrister where necessary. Solicitors will often accompany Barristers in court to help keep notes or helping with files.

Different Barristers may be used throughout a case. This may be necessary when Barristers with different areas of speciality are required. Alternatively, different Barristers may need to be sought if the original Barrister is busy working on a different case. This is known as the ‘Cab Rank Rule’ and helps keep the Barristers independent. The same Solicitor will usually deal with a case throughout its entirety.

Client Interaction

A client can deal directly with the Solicitor as the point of contact. However, the client can only deal with the Barrister through the Solicitor. The Solicitor will act as an intermediary between the client and the Barrister. A new scheme has been pioneered in England and Wales called ‘Public Access’ that is designed to allow clients to act as their own Solicitor and deal directly with the Barrister – but this is only applicable in certain types of cases.

There are exceptions to almost all of the rules stipulated above, but these are the most commonly applicable.


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