What lawyers do
Solicitors and barristers perform distinct roles within the legal profession.
The Role of the Solicitor
Solicitors represent the largest sector in legal employment. In addition to the big national and international firms, there is a wealth of small to medium sized practices, at local, regional and national level. The variety of work will depend on the type of firm you choose to work for, but in general a solicitor will have excellent organisational, interpersonal and communication skills and a flair for problem-solving.
The main working activities of a solicitor include:
- Meeting clients (this may initially involve establishing whether the support or advice wanted can be provided)
- Advising clients on the law and taking instructions
- Drafting and reviewing documents and contracts and analysing information
- Negotiating with clients or others
- Undertaking research to ensure that accurate advice is given and that procedure is followed correctly
- Acting on behalf of clients and sometimes representing them in court
- Instructing barristers to provide representation in court and attending court to sit behind the barrister
- Keeping up to date on changes and developments in the law by reading and attending courses
The Role of the Barrister
Barristers perform two key roles: they represent their clients in court and provide specialist legal advice on a particular area of law. The choice of your specialist area will influence how much time is spent in court and how much providing advice. Criminal law, for example, is more likely to involve court cases while chancery law, which covers areas such as business law, trusts and probate and company law is more likely to require written opinions.
The main working activities of a barrister include:
- Understanding and interpreting the law and keeping up to date on changes and developments in the law
- Reading legal briefs (details of a case) and getting to grips with them
- Researching points of law relevant to a case
- Preparing cases for court
- Presenting arguments in court and examining and cross-examining witnesses
- Drafting legal documents
- Negotiating settlements
- Writing opinions and advising solicitors and other professionals