This is probably the single most asked question I get and it’s a perfectly valid and important question. Years ago I would have been able to give you a clear answer highlighting stark differences between the professions.
I’d have told you that barristers provide specialist legal advice and represent clients in courts and tribunals and that solicitors mainly carried out their work outside the court room – litigating, advising on legal issues and drafting documents.
That now however would be an overly simplistic reflection of the reality as over the years the lines between the two professions have become somewhat blurred.
For example, many solicitors do represent their clients in courts and tribunals and they can obtain ‘higher rights of audience’ allowing them to represent clients in all the same courts that barristers can. Likewise, barristers can become authorised to conduct litigation.
Changes to the way you can instruct a barrister, have no doubt blurred the lines even further and have made the way I work directly with individuals and businesses possible – it used to be the case that you could only instruct a barrister via a solicitor, however that is no longer the case and you can now instruct a barrister directly yourself under the Direct Access (also known as Public Access) scheme. Ultimately working with a direct access barrister means you cut out the middleman and that means you save both time and money.
All these changes mean that as a direct access qualified specialist employment law barrister, I find myself working directly with businesses, advising on the law, drafting contracts and documents, providing support and training, in a very similar way to which a solicitor would, as well as representing them in court when needed.
Usually, the question that follows is what then is a lawyer? Well that is a far easier question to answer…A lawyer is simply a generic term for solicitor or barrister.
And with the barriers removed, making access to barristers as easy as solicitors, the only real issue is making sure that should you ever need to seek to legal advice or need representation that you find someone that you are happy working with and can trust with your business.
If you need advice, support or representation – or even if you just want to know whether you need a lawyer, and want to find out if I am the right fit to work with you and your business why not drop me a line and we can have a chat.