You may have seen British movies where clients refer to their legal representative as a solicitor and wondered, What is a Solicitor?
Some British words like “boot” and “petrol” have direct translations into “Americanese.” A boot is a car trunk and petrol is gasoline. There is no direct translation for the term “solicitor” because England has a two-tiered legal system with solicitors and barristers. In America, although they specialize in different things, a lawyer is a lawyer.
Definition of Solicitor
In simple terms, a solicitor is the professional you would see for matters that do not require a court appearance. A definition found in an online legal dictionary reads “a type of practicing lawyer in England who handles primarily office work.” These professionals sometimes represent clients in smaller court matters. They often specialize in certain legal areas. Solicitors usually have undergraduate law degrees followed by a year of “Legal Practice Course” and a two-year apprenticeship, according to Diffen.com. Afterward, he or she is admitted to the “Roll” which is the listing of professionals allowed to practice this kind of law.
Duties of a Solicitor
A solicitor meets prospective clients and interviews them to ascertain the nature of their legal problem. He or she may give legal advice to a client as well. Solicitors draft letters and documents like wills and lease agreements. In England, the majority of solicitors are litigators, negotiating for their clients and representing them in civil lawsuits heard in smaller courts. They sometimes appear on behalf of clients in criminal cases but, when the issues are complex, often refer the cases to barristers.
Difference Between a Barrister and a Solicitor
The second tier of the British legal system is the barrister. In the old British movies referred to previously, the solicitor in a courtroom would wear a robe; the barrister would wear a robe and a horsehair wig. The wig has largely been abolished but there are significant differences between the two lawyers. While barristers argue cases in the higher court, they do not usually meet the client personally. Generally, they receive client information from a solicitor who has interviewed him. That is another duty of the solicitor. Barristers are not allowed to accept work directly; cases are usually referred to them by solicitors who brief them on the details. The barrister must then research the case and argue it in court. This is changing in many countries that have this two-part legal system to unify the two branches into one, and include a professional called a Solicitor/Advocate who may argue cases in some courts that were previously denied to them. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They pay the Law Society of England for the privilege of practicing and, if they do not pay the fee each year, they are prohibited from offering any legal advice to clients. Barristers belong to the bar council, or Inn at the Court, and solicitors belong to the Law Society.
Although in America and in England “lawyer” is a generic term, only in England are the duties of the law professionals separated. American attorneys advertise their specialties, either criminal or civil, prosecuting or defense, inheritance or other area. In England, lawyers are divided into two groups, with education and association determining What is a Barrister and What is a Solicitor.