Barristers, Solicitors and Lawyers - What’s the Difference?

If you are looking for lawyers in Ipswich, Colchester, Norwich or Cambridge, you may be wondering what type of legal practitioner you need – a solicitor or barrister?

It was once the case that, as a member of the public, you were only able to approach a solicitor, who could then go on to instruct a barrister. However, as a result of changes to the system, clients are now able to instruct a direct access barrister themselves if they wish. This means individuals have to make the decision themselves about which type of lawyer to approach.

Both solicitors and barristers based in the Ipswich area have full legal training and there are some types of work which either type of legal representative can carry out perfectly well. However there are important differences in their training and expertise which make one more suitable than the other for different types of work. Here we take a look at the differences in training undergone by solicitors and barristers, and then consider when choosing a barrister is the right choice.

Training and Expertise of Solicitors and Barristers

Solicitors and barristers both begin their training in the same way. They start out either by taking an undergraduate law degree, or by taking a degree in another subject followed by a graduate law diploma, also known as a conversion course.

After this initial stage, however, the training routes differ. A trainee solicitor will spend a year taking a course in legal practice, then undertake a two-year training contract at a legal firm, learning professional skills and studying different areas of law.

A new barrister must take a year-long Bar Professional Training Course, then go on to pupillage, which involves spending a year in barristers' chambers, training alongside a senior barrister and carrying out some work in court. New barristers experience a broad range of areas of practice from conflicts over property in the county court to criminal appeals against conviction in the Court of Appeal. This means that barristers have a thorough grounding in court work, enabling them to represent clients effectively in a wide range of cases and disputes.

When to Choose a Barrister

Choosing to be represented by a barrister is advisable whenever your circumstances involve a court appearance, in which the quality of the presentation to judge or jurors could affect the outcome. This could include:

Criminal and Driving Cases: If you have been charged with an offence and are required to appear in court, a criminal defence barrister can conduct your case. Expert legal representation is equally important if you have already been convicted of an offence and want to appeal to a higher court, whether to overturn the conviction or reduce your sentence. A barrister could also take on your case if you have been subjected to an out-of-court penalty and want to appeal, for instance disputing motoring convictions or a road ban.

Civil Cases: Appointing a barrister to represent your interests is also advisable if you are involved in a civil (non-criminal) case against a person or a company. This could be to allocate responsibility, to defend your reputation, for instance in a libel case, or if you have decided to sue someone for damages.  Commercial and civil litigation often involves a considerable amount of caselaw and legislation.  Barristers are experts in considering complex arguments of law to help you win your case.

Out-of-Court Settlements: Another area where barristers' expertise is invaluable is when you want to negotiate a settlement with a person or company out of court, but with the potential to go to court if settlement cannot be reached. This could include areas such as legal debt recovery or contract disputes.  Negotiation can take a number of different forms including direct face-to-face meetings with the other side to negotiation by correspondence.

For example, Marcus Croskell acted for a publican of a pub in Essex which was using a satellite receiver from Latvia to broadcast Premiership football games to patrons, in breach of the Premiership’s copyright of logos, imagery and music. Marcus assisted by negotiating with the solicitors for the Football Association and the Premiership, avoiding an expensive battle in the High Court and achieving a small settlement.

Barristers are regularly in court and have experience how trials are conducted. Therefore they are better placed to give a realistic assessment of the likely outcome of a dispute at trial. This helps with negotiation and in itself can help to resolve the dispute more quickly, and therefore more cost-effectively.

Anyone seeking lawyers in Ipswich, Woodbridge or other parts of East Anglia should bear these differences in mind when deciding whether to opt for a barrister or solicitor to conduct a particular case or dispute.

Lawyers Ipswich – Follow the link to find out more about barrister Marcus Croskell's professional services.