The distinction between the legal professionals of the English legal system is clouded and lacks any real divergence in their respective roles.
English legal system is one of the oldest legal systems underlying the legal systems of some countries like America. We are talking about English legal system and not about United Kingdom legal system, because the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some laws apply across the UK and some in just one or two countries. Wales, as a result of the Laws of Wales Acts 1535 and 1543, does not have a separate legal system, but rather is an ‘annex’ to English law. That’s what we’re talking about the laws of England and Wales.
English legal system is composed of four substantial elements: Law: Legislation, case law, EU law; Procedure: Criminal, civil, funding the English legal system, Institutional: Courts, officers of the law, Personnel: Legal professionals, judiciary, laypersons. This essay will examine the fourth element – Personnel and in particular Solicitors and Barristers, their role, place in English legal system, what is the difference between them and whether there is a need for these two positions in the system.
Legal professionals is a category includes such individuals as solicitors, barristers, legal executive and paralegals. We will focus on so-called ‘lawyers’. ‘Lawyers’ is a general term which traditionally covers two distinct professions, namely solicitors and barrister. Barristers hold these higher rights of audience from qualification and solicitors, on the other hand, must undertake specialist training which will allow them to appear in the more senior courts. Before considering these two legal professionals, it is first important to look legal education and how one may become a legal professional. From here we will see where the difference in these two positions is and what their obligations are.
Have two routes to qualifying as a solicitor: with a university degree and without a university degree. According to J.Lightman: ‘’The quality of solicitors and counsel varies as does the quality of wine from ‘ unfit to drink’ to vintage. Vintage tends to be very expensive beyond the means of the ordinary litigant.’’
According to the Solicitors Act 1974 ‘’ No person shall be qualified to act as a solicitor unless he has been admitted as a solicitor, and his name is on the roll, and he has in force a certificate issued by the Society in accordance with the provisions of this Part authorising him to practise as a solicitor (in this Act referred to as a “practising certificate”).’’
People who want to be lawyers must undertake a law degree and need complete the seven foundations of law: criminal law, contract law, torts law, European Union law, equity and trusts law, land law and public law. This generally awards students a diploma – Graduate Diploma in Law. This course focused on providing students with the knowledge of the foundational subjects. The student may then proceed to study as a solicitor or as a barrister. The usual method of entry is a qualifying law degree and then a one-year Legal Practice Course, or bay taking a special four-year law degree. The student must serve as a trainee in a firm of solicitors or alternative organisation. Trainees need to attend a professional skills course during their training. It is again ‘outcomes based’ and includes advocacy and oral presentation, case and transaction management, client care, communication, drafting, legal research, negotiation and so on. All solicitors must undergo regular continuing professional development. This is come in 2014, following the Legal Education and Training Review. Solicitors are often the first point of contact for individuals seeking legal advice. They are general practitioners of the law. Solicitors generally specialize in one or two particular fields, depends on the work of their firm, for example criminal law firm, a family law firm etc.
There is another possibility to become a solicitor – without having a university degree. Must to do this when academic study of law by Chartered Institute for Legal Executives. After this can to complete the Legal Practice Course as normal.
Solicitors can and do form partnerships with other solicitors or form a Limited Liability Partnership, can work in: small private practice, large corporations, leading law firms, law centres, Government departments, private industry and education.
To practice as a barrister must first undertake their law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law and then undertake the Bar Professional Training Course. A would-be barrister need register as a student member of one of the Inns of Court. The four Inns of Court are as follows: Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. Students normally get law degree, as the academic stage and then complete the one-year Bar Professional Training Course, then called to the Bar. All barristers are required to have a practising certificate, to complete a forensic accountancy undertake continuing professional development. Barristers needs to include more practical emphasis on alternative dispute resolution, especially mediation. Student barristers must engage in 12 qualifying sessions. Upon successful completion of this course, the student shall be called to the Bar.
In England and Wales have two types of practising barrister: junior barrister and Queen’s Counsel. Junior barrister refers to any barrister, of any length of service, who is not a Queen’s Counsel.
Queen’s Counsel refers to those barrister who have reached a level of outstanding ability and experience.
Barrister’s work is managed by their clerks. They are represented by the Bar Council and regulated by the Bar Standards Board. Barristers are not permitted to negotiate or accept fees from their instructing solicitors. They are instructed by solicitors to take on a certain case. So, the procedure for instructing a barrister start from client, who retains solicitor. Solicitor instructs barrister, who represents client.
Barrister are the specialist advocates whom solicitors instruct to represent a client during trail. He can be divided into two categories: self-employed barristers and employed (in-house) barristers. Barristers, unlike solicitors, cannot work in partnership with other barristers. Unlike solicitors, a barrister’s role has always been focused on trail advocacy. A barrister’s knowledge can cover broad areas of specialism including criminal law, personal injury and family low. Different between the role of a barrister and solicitor is the operation of the ‘’Cab Rank Rule’’. There is another significant difference between solicitor I barrister – barrister must accept any case that come. All barristers are subject to professional rules contained in the BSB Handbook, where the most important is Part II which concerns the Code of Conduct.
Barristers tend to practise as advocates representing clients in court, whereas solicitors tend to perform the majority of their legal work in a law firm or office setting.
Summing up we can say that solicitors and barristers are two very different positions that differ both in qualification and training as well as in work experience opportunities, access to the public, even the dress code – for barrister Traditional court clothing is required – a black long robe and a wig, while for solicitor there is no dress code.