Lawyers, barristers and solicitors – oh my!
Have you ever wondered what the difference between a barrister and solicitor actually is? Or what the difference is between a lawyer and someone with a law degree is?
These are common misunderstandings amongst family law clients. And since different jurisdictions have different rules it is important to know the basic difference. Therefore we’ve broken them down for you.
Barristers and solicitors
Legal Aid WA explains the differences in the following way:
Barristers and solicitors are both lawyers. A solicitor meets with you, gives you legal advice, negotiates for you, and prepares letters, contracts and court documents. Solicitors will sometimes hire a barrister to appear in court for you. A barrister is a lawyer that specialises in court work and normally only takes on cases referred to them by solicitors.
In terms of the specifics in WA, Legal Aid WA goes on to say that:
…lawyers are allowed to work as both a barrister and a solicitor. Most of the time, the lawyer you hire will do the work of a solicitor and can also appear for you in court.
What that means then is that all barristers and solicitors are lawyers, but not all lawyers are both barristers and solicitors.
Practising and non-practising lawyers
The Law Society WA explains difference in the following:
A non-practising lawyer has completed a law degree but may not have completed the requirements to be admitted or may not hold a valid practising certificate. They are unable to provide legal advice under the law that governs the legal profession in Western Australia. A practising lawyer is a lawyer who has been admitted with approval from the legal practice board of Western Australia. They hold a current and valid practising certificate and have met the requirements to be admitted…
In other words, all lawyers have a law degree but not all those with a law degree are lawyers.
Why does any of this matter?
While this might seem like “splitting hairs”, these differences matter a great deal for two main reasons:
- Cost of services: Firstly, due to the costs associated with court work, barristers tend to have a higher price point than solicitors. While barristers tend not to engage with clients directly, it may help you narrow your search for lawyers that can help you.
- Validity of advice: Secondly, and more importantly, you really get what you pay for. Or don’t. Only a practising lawyer is able to provide legal advice under the law. Not a non-practising lawyer or even someone with a law degree (let alone someone without any legal qualifications whatsoever.)
It is extremely important to go to a practising lawyer for valid legal advice.
If you are unsure about the suitability of your legal assistance, you can contact the Legal Practice Board of Western Australia to confirm if they are a Practising Lawyer is admitted to practice law in Western Australia.