Solicitors and barristers have traditionally held very different positions and have been easily to distinguish from one another. In the 21st century this line has blurred and increasingly both barristers and solicitors have been performing several similar services.
Solicitors are fully qualified lawyers who have undertaken post-graduate education and a two-year on-the-job training period. Although most specialise in a particular area of law, they can give advice to the public on most areas of law. Until recently, solicitors could only be found representing their clients in small local courts and tribunals. Now though, solicitors are beginning to encroach on the ‘High Courts’. Most individual solicitors act out of an independent law firm, where more senior solicitors are often partners in the practice. A bit like GP’s surgery…
Barristers (Not to be confused with Baristas, although highly skilled, they make coffee) actually have an entirely different qualification system to solicitors. They have their own apprenticeship system and their main role is to represent their clients in court. Qualified barristers can represent their clients in the aforementioned ‘High Courts’. These can be defined as the Crown Courts, the High Court, Court of Appeal, and the House of Lords.
These two roles have melted into one another over recent years, as both positions have attempted to diversify the services they can provide to their clients. Both barristers and solicitors come in a variety of special roles. For instance, you can get family barristers, who deal solely with parent and child cases. They may represent a parent, or a local authority in a family orientated case.
These will often relate to disputes about where a child should live or how much time a parent should spend with the child, disputes about the finances arising when couples divorce, disputes about property and finances when unmarried couples separate, injunctions where there is domestic violence and care and adoption proceedings when the state intervenes to try and protect a child from harm it thinks the child is suffering.
Some solicitors offer a similar service. However, one of the new fads for family courts is a parent entering without any legal assistance what so ever. Recently a number of ‘self-help’ style books have been released which claim to offer advice to people who don’t want to pay for a lawyer. This approach is not recommended. Would you ever really put the future of your family and their future happiness down to a cheap book from Waterstones?