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Barristers and Solicitors

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Although the United Kingdom shares one government, it has several legal systems. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland have separate laws, judiciaries and legal professions to those in England and Wales.

The legal profession in England and Wales is made up of barristers and solicitors. Both are trained in law but serve differing functions in the practice of law. Traditionally these professions had very distinct roles. Solicitors were the first point of contact for clients and advised them on the merits of their case – they then referred the client to a barrister, who represented them in court.

A solicitor’s role is to give specialist legal advice and help. Solicitors are the main advisers on all matters of law to the public. There are around 140,000 practising solicitors in most towns across the UK and their work varies enormously.

A solicitor’s job is to provide clients with skilled legal advice and representation, including pleading in court. Many problems are dealt with exclusively by a solicitor. For instance, the solicitor deals with petty crimes and some matrimonial matters in Magistrates’ Courts, the lowest courts. Family law and child care law are important nowadays, and solicitors often represent clients in court in divorce cases. In a civil action he can speak in the County Court, when the case is one of divorce or recovering some debts.

A solicitor also deals with matters outside Court. He does the legal work involved in buying a house, for instance. He writes legal letters for the client and carries on legal arguments outside court. He makes wills and administers the estates of people, who have died. A solicitor often advises businesses on such matters as employment law, contracts and company formations.

Most solicitors work in private practice, which is a business partnership of solicitors who offer services to clients. You will find a solicitor’s firm in nearly every town in England and Wales. Many solicitors and firms specialize in areas of law in which they are expert, and specialisms can include corporate and commercial law, insurance, the registration of patents and copyrights, shipping, banking, entertainment and media law and many others.

Not all solicitors work in private practice. It is possible for solicitors to work as in-house legal advisers to a commercial or industrial organization, to a government department or a local authority. There is a trend to allow multinational partnerships in England and Wales between solicitors and foreign lawyers.

Because the law is complex, the training of solicitors takes a long time and can be difficult. To qualify as a solicitor, a young man or woman joins a solicitor as a “clerk” and works for him whilst studying part time for the “Law Society”.

The Law Society makes the rules for the legal education and training required. The trainee must receive a thorough and broad education. Solicitors with good communication skills-written, verbal or inter-personal-are in demand. A high standard of literacy is required. When you have passed all the necessary exams, you can “practice”, which means you can start business on your own.

Barristers are different from solicitors. Barristers are experts in the interpretation of the Law. Barristers are legal consultants offering specialist services, in particular as advocates or advisors in matters involving litigation. They are called in to advise on really difficult points. Barristers are also experts on advocacy (the art of presenting cases in Court). Barrister has the exclusive right of audience as an advocate before all the superior courts, and he can also take cases in the inferior courts if he wishes to do so. When acting professionally barristers are known as “counsel”.

Barristers are rather remote figures. In general, a barrister has no direct contact with the client, only through the instructing solicitor. The solicitor will choose the barrister best suited to the needs of the client.

Most barristers are professional advocates earning their living by the presentation of civil and criminal cases in court. A barrister must be capable of prosecuting in a criminal case one day, and defending an accused person the next; or of preparing the pleading and taking the case for a plaintiff in a civil action one day, and doing the same thing for a defendant the next. In this way the barrister attains a real degree of objectivity and of independence of mind.

Barristers are not allowed to form partnership. Barristers do not have public offices in any street. Practicing barristers are all self-employed, although they normally band together into "chambers" to share clerks (administrators) and operating expenses Chambers are groups of barristers, and tend to comprise between 20 and 60 barristers. Due to the nature of barristers’ work, the chambers are only to be found near to the major courts. Some barristers, on the other hand, are employed by firms of solicitors, banks or corporations as in-house legal advisers.

A barrister must be a member of one of the Inns of Court, which traditionally educated and regulated barristers. There are four Inns of Court: The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, and The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. All are situated in central London, near the Royal Courts of Justice.

To qualify as a barrister you have to take the examinations of the Bar Council. Barristers’ training concentrates on the art of advocacy, court procedure and the rules of evidence. Only barristers can become judges in an English Court above a Magistrates’ Court.

Barristers have full rights of audience to appear in all courts, from highest to lowest. In court, barristers refer to each other as "my learned friend". Historically, this is a sign of mutual respect for the common heritage and position they occupy. It is also a reminder of the time when the Bar was small enough for all practitioners to know each other personally, which to some extent is still true; in an earlier generation, barristers would not shake hands or address each other formally, on the grounds that they were all "brothers-at-law".

Barristers and solicitors are required to dress formally when appearing in a court case. In court, barristers are often visibly distinguished from solicitors by their apparel. For example, in Ireland, England and Wales, barristers usually wear a horsehair wig, stiff collar, bands and a gown. Solicitors appearing in the county court must wear a gown but no wig. The vast majority of County Court hearings are now conducted without robes, although they continue to be worn in High Court proceedings.

Though, historically, a bright line divided the two branches of the profession, in the United Kingdom the strict separation between the duties of solicitor and barrister has been partially broken down. Considerable change has been made in recent years with respect to the traditional rights of access, i.e., the solicitor's right of access to the courts and the client's right of direct access to the barrister. This breakdown is expected to go further in the next few years, with the government pressing the Bar Council to allow barristers to deal directly with the public. Solicitors frequently appear not only in the lower courts but (subject to passing a test) increasingly in the higher courts too (such as the High Court of Justice of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal)

Many countries such as the United States do not observe a distinction between barristers and solicitors. And in others, Scotland and Ireland for example, there is little overlap.


Task 3. Answer the following questions:

1. Do England and Wales compose a single legal jurisdiction?

2. What is the legal profession in England and Wales is made up of?

3. Did these professions traditionally have very distinct roles?

4. What matters does a solicitor deal with?

5. What matters does a solicitor deal in the Magistrate’ Court with?

6. Does a solicitor wear his ordinary clothes in court?

7. What matters do solicitors advise businesses on?

8. Do all solicitors work in private practice?

9. Does the training of solicitors take a short time?

10. What is required to become a solicitor?

11. What rules does the Law Society make?

12. What kind of education must the trainee receive?

13. When can a trainee start his or her own business?

14. Are barristers different from solicitors?

15. What services do barristers offer?

16. What kind of right has a barrister?

17. Has a barrister a direct contact with a client?

18. How do barristers earn their living?

19. How does a barrister attain a real degree of objectivity and of independence of mind?

20. Are barristers allowed to form partnership?

21. Where do barristers share their offices?

22. What do you have to do to qualify as a barrister?

23. What does barristers’ training concentrate on?

24. What institution educates and regulates barristers?

25. Are barristers and solicitors required to dress formally when appearing in a court case?

26. Does the division between solicitors and barristers remain today?


Task 4. Pick out from the text all the word combinations
with the following words and give their Ukrainian equivalents

Barrister, client, law, matter, partnership, solicitor.


Task 5. Find the following word combinations in the text “Barristers and Solicitors”. Read the sentences and translate them

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