14th Apr 2020 | Articles & Newsletters

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Richard Samuel writing for Legalmondo on Barrister: what they are, and why they exist. This article focuses on a single feature which is key for international lawyers’ understanding of the English legal system: why it has two kinds of lawyer- barristers and solicitors – and what each of them does.


Barrister: what they are, and why they exist

The English common law is a primary choice of law for international business, because it consistently gives the parties exactly what they agreed: what you see in the contract is what you get.

The same cannot be said for the English legal system: there are barristers, solicitors, Inns of Court, chambers, compulsory disclosure, cross-examination and the loser pays rule. There is much to confuse non-English lawyers and mistakes can be expensive for their clients. Those who know enough to avoid confusion can add real value for clients who have English law disputes.

This blog focuses on a single feature which is key for international lawyers’ understanding of the English legal system: why it has two kinds of lawyer – barristers and solicitors – and what each of them does.

Barristers and solicitors: what is the difference?

To understand the difference, the key thing to bear in mind is that they run completely different business models to support their legal practices.

Solicitors practice within law firms: profit sharing entities, familiar to lawyers around the world. This risk-sharing model allows senior lawyers to employ teams of junior lawyers to do the heavy lifting on cases: corresponding with the client, the court and the opposing parties and collecting the evidence for trial.

Barristers are self-employed individuals. They operate from ‘chambers’, which are cost-sharing organisations; barristers practising in chambers together do not share profit or spread risk. They cannot employ junior lawyers to do the heavy lifting on cases; they do not collect evidence, correspond with the court, opposing party or the client. Instead, they are specialist sub-contractors to law firms in England and around the world. Those law firms do all that heavy lifting that allows barristers to conduct their practices.

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