What Are The Differences Between a Lawyer, a Solicitor and a Barrister?

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Flinn DolmanCo-Founder
Updated on 26th February 2024
Solicitors and Barristers

Understanding the difference between a lawyer, a solicitor, and a barrister is important when seeking legal help. All play vital roles in providing legal support, but they have some distinctions.

Solicitors and barristers are specific types of lawyers that practise the law in England and Wales.

Solicitors typically advise clients, draft legal documents, and help file court applications. They often deal with legal matters like property transactions and business law.

A barrister is a type of lawyer who specialises in arguing cases in court and providing legal advice. They work closely with solicitors, who hire them on behalf of their clients. Barristers focus on specific areas of law, like family law, and are known for their strong advocacy skills in court.

Deciding whether you need a lawyer, solicitor, or barrister depends on your legal issue. At Lawhive we have skilled lawyers and solicitors ready to help you quickly for affordable fixed fees or on a conditional fee agreement basis.

Contact us today for personalised help.

What is a lawyer?

According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), 'lawyer' doesn't have a precise definition in the UK, unlike in the US where it refers to a specific role

Instead, the term 'lawyer' covers a wide range of legal professionals like solicitors and barristers.

It is often used to refer to someone who has had a legal education and training. They can handle various legal tasks, including representing clients in court and offering legal advice.

What is a solicitor?

A solicitor is a legal professional who is trained to provide legal advice and assistance to clients. They work closely with individuals and businesses on their legal matters, often from the early stages of a case.

Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and can handle a range of matters, from wills, trust and probate to commercial disputes.

What do solicitors do?

Solicitors have several important responsibilities that help their clients with legal matters including:

Solicitors help clients understand their rights and responsibilities under the law. They can explain how the law applies to a particular situation and suggest the best course of action.

Preparing documents

Solicitors draft and review legal documents, such as contracts, wills, and property agreements. They make sure that these documents follow the law and protect their client's interests.

Negotiating and resolving disputes

Solicitors often work with other parties to negotiate agreements or settle disputes out of court.

They use their knowledge of the law and negotiation skills to find solutions that benefit their clients.

For example, solicitors may assist an individual through a dispute with their employer by helping them negotiate a favourable settlement agreement.

Managing cases

Solicitors keep track of the progress of their client's cases, making sure that everything is done on time and according to the law. They also communicate with their clients to keep them informed about what's happening.

How can a solicitor help?

The main role of a solicitor is to guide clients on the best legal actions to take considering the situation. This could involve seeking alternative solutions like mediation to avoid court proceedings where appropriate.

Solicitors can help clients in many ways depending on the situation and the area of law involved. For example, in some cases, especially in family law, solicitors may represent clients in court or they might collaborate with barristers.

If you need help with any of the following a solicitor may be right for you:

Buying or selling property

Solicitors can guide clients through the process of buying or selling a home, making sure that all legal requirements are met and that the transaction goes smoothly. This is known as conveyancing.

Dealing with family issues

Solicitors can provide advice and assistance in matters such as divorce, child arrangements, and adoption, helping clients navigate the legal process and protect their interests.

Disputes between a landlord and their tenant

Solicitors can help clients resolve legal conflicts between landlords and tenants, such as rent arrears, eviction proceedings, and disputes over property repairs or maintenance.

Neighbour disputes

Solicitors can provide advice and assistance in resolving conflicts between neighbours, such as boundary disputes, noise complaints, or issues relating to shared spaces, like shared driveways.


Solicitors can help clients with various immigration matters, such as applying for visas, work permits, or British Citizenship.

They can also assist in appealing immigration decisions and navigating the complexities of immigration law.

Can solicitors represent you in court?

Solicitors can represent clients in lower courts, like the Magistrates' Court and County Court. However, for more complex cases or high courts, such as the High Court or Court of Appeal, solicitors often enlist a barrister to represent their clients.

What is a solicitor advocate?

Some solicitors opt to become "solicitor advocates," which allows them to represent clients in higher courts, too. To become solicitor advocates, they undergo additional training and qualifications to gain higher rights of audience, similar to barristers.

Solicitor advocates offer the advantage of service continuity to clients. This means solicitors can handle both the preparatory work and court representation, giving clients a single point of contact throughout their legal matter.

However, not all solicitors are solicitor advocates, and the decision to use a solicitor advocate vs a barrister depends on the case's complexity and the required expertise.

What is a barrister?


Barristers focus on giving expert advice and representing clients in court. They undergo specific training and education to excel in court proceedings and understand legal issues.

Barristers are overseen by the Bar Standards Board and get involved in a case if it goes to court. Typically, solicitors appoint a barrister to act as a client's voice during court hearings, presenting their situation effectively in court, while they work behind the scenes to support clients towards resolution.

What do barristers do?

Barristers have several important jobs to help their clients with legal problems, including:

Speaking in court

Barristers speak for clients in court, using their skills to explain their client's side of the story, ask witnesses questions, and convince the judge or jury to agree with them.

Barristers give expert opinions about difficult legal questions, helping clients and solicitors decide what to do in a particular case.

Preparing for court

Barristers work with solicitors to get ready for a trial, looking at evidence, finding examples from other legal cases, and figuring out the best way to present their client's case in court.

How can barristers help?

Barristers are helpful when clients need expert advice about the law or someone to speak for them in court. Here are some examples of how barristers can help:

In cases that are difficult or involve a lot of money, a barrister's knowledge can help clients understand what's going on and try to get a good result.


If a client doesn't agree with a decision made by a lower court, a barrister can speak for them in the appeals process, using their deep understanding of the law to argue for a different result.

Criminal defence

Barristers can help clients who are accused of crimes, using their skills to explain their client's side of the story and protect their rights during the legal process.

Public law

In cases where people have problems with public organisations, like government agencies or local authorities, barristers can give expert advice and speak for their clients in court to make sure their rights are respected.

By offering their special skills in speaking in court and understanding the law, barristers can play a big part in helping clients get the best possible result for their legal problems.

Do I need a solicitor or a barrister?

When facing a legal issue, your first step is to find a solicitor who specialises in the relevant area of law. In many cases, court proceedings are a last resort, and you may not need a barrister.

Your solicitor will guide you through your options and together you will decide on the best course of action. If court proceedings are necessary, your solicitor will assemble the appropriate legal team, which may include a barrister.

To determine whether you need a solicitor or a barrister, consider the type of legal assistance you require and the key differences between a lawyer vs a barrister which are:

Solicitors primarily offer legal advice, draft documents, and handle pre-court matters, while barristers specialise in specific legal issues and represent clients in court.

Here are some questions to consider:

If you need help with common legal problems or making legal documents like contracts or wills, a solicitor might be the right choice.

They can also help you with talking to other people to solve problems or representing you in lower courts.

Barristers usually focus on more specialised legal advice and speaking in court, so they might not be the best choice for these situations.

If your legal problem is more difficult or about a special part of the law, a barrister could be better for you. They are good at talking in court and can help with harder cases or when you need to go to a higher court. Solicitors usually help with general legal advice and normal legal issues.

Will any court action be involved?

If you think your case might go to court, especially to a higher court, or if it's a more difficult case, a barrister might be the best choice.

They are experts in speaking in court and can help you have the best chance of winning.

If your case is in a lower court, a solicitor might be better since they can help you there and work with a barrister if needed.

Generally, you should start your case with a solicitor who will then suggest a barrister if they think it's needed later on down the line.

At Lawhive, we see this sort of thing a lot with cases like neighbour disputes where initially someone needs a legal letter sent but later on court action needs to be taken.

Other types of lawyers

Besides solicitors and barristers, you should be aware of these other types of lawyer:

Legal executives, overseen by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) are legal professionals who focus on specific areas of law.

While they handle many legal tasks independently, some activities, like litigation and conveyancing, require solicitor supervision.

They often work alongside solicitors and handle similar tasks such as giving legal advice and preparing documents.

Working closely with solicitors, legal executives offer legal advice and draft documents. They can be a cost-effective option for simpler cases, often charging lower fees than solicitors. However, the suitability of a legal executive depends on the complexity of your case.


Paralegals aren't fully qualified lawyers, but they receive legal training and work under the guidance of licensed legal professionals like solicitors or barristers. They assist with research, document, drafting, and case management, but they have limitations on what they can do, such as handling court cases or property transactions.

Paralegals get experience and knowledge in various legal areas and may continue to pursue careers as solicitors, barristers, or legal executives later on. While typically they support qualified lawyers, they can also be your main contact for a case.

Before you start working with any legal professional, it's a good idea to be clear about who will be your main contact during a case - whether it's a solicitor, barrister, or paralegal - to ensure clear communication throughout your legal matter.

At Lawhive, our network of dedicated solicitors covers a wide range of legal areas, from family and employment law to corporate and construction law.

Our mission is to provide fast and affordable legal assistance to everyone in the UK, guiding you toward favourable outcomes.

While many issues can be resolved without court involvement, our solicitors are prepared to support you through court proceedings if necessary. They'll work closely with you to assemble the best team of professionals for your case.

If court action is required, our solicitors can prepare you for the process and even represent you in court in some cases. Whatever you need, we'll make sure you have the right support, including finding the best barrister to represent you if needed.

For personalised advice or to explore your legal options, contact our Legal Assessment Team today. We're here to help you solve your legal matters, whatever they may be, with confidence.

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