Barrister or Solicitor?

What is a Barrister

In the English legal system the legal profession is divided into Barristers and Solicitors. Both are sometimes referred to simply as ‘lawyers’.

A barrister is a legal specialist. The work of a barrister will often involve providing legal advice (in writing or in conference) and representing clients in negotiations, in court or at other hearings such as tribunals.

Types of barrister...

Independent barristers are self-employed and may work on their own or more often in a group referred to as ‘Chambers’. In Chambers the barristers share their premises and their staff. The barrister’s work diary and their fees are usually managed by their clerk. The barrister works as an individual and pays a proportion of their fees to their Chambers to cover their overheads. If you instruct a barrister, they will usually work personally on your case. Barristers cover all areas of legal work.


Direct Access Barristers

Bar Council approved barristers can now offer their services directly to the public without first instructing a solicitor. With no middleman there is an immediate financial benefit - just one fee. And as Direct Access barristers do not require expensive offices in city centre locations with numerous and costly backup staff, that single fee is not inflated by a large administrative burden. Importantly, with court proceedings looming, you can deal immediately and directly with an expert in advocacy and law, who is a specialist in the area concerning your problem, and who will represent you on the day.

Barristers can carry out work for a fixed fee, dependent on the complexity of the case and the work required, thereby providing you with more control and certainty over your expenditure.

Communications directly between you and your barrister are swift and you can benefit from your barrister’s advice at an early stage.

Contact a Direct Access barrister to find out what they can or cannot do for you; he or she will be very willing to help you.

Services Offered under Direct Access

The vast majority of barristers who offer Direct Access do not offer to conduct litigation. That means that the responsibility for the day to day management of your case will remain with you. Your barrister will be able to help you to whatever extent you need help with things such as:-


  • Advising you on the law
  • Advising you on matters of evidence and procedure
  • Compiling letters for you to send to the other side
  • Helping you make applications to the court
  • Representing you in meetings, negotiations and at court.


If a barrister has approval to conduct litigation, they can conduct the entirety of your case, including entering correspondence and making applications to court on your behalf if required. In their listing on Lawyers Chambers a barrister will indicate if they are able to conduct litigation in that way.

What are the advantages of a Barrister

You can save money by managing your own case whilst still having the benefit of specialist advice. 

A barrister will often work based on a fixed fee, helping you to maintain closer control over your spending on legal costs.

Providing your instructions directly can help to improve communication between you and your barrister.

You can use your financial resources more effectively, spending a greater proportion on advice and preparation rather than burdensome administration. 

You can use the services of outside agencies who provide litigation support at lower cost than traditional solicitors.

You can always contact a barrister to discuss whether Direct Access is suitable for you. Many barristers offer a free initial consultation for the purpose of considering the suitability of a case.

What is a solicitor?

A solicitor is a qualified legal professional who provides expert legal advice and support to clients. A solicitor's clients can be individual people, groups, private companies, or public sector organisations.

What does a solicitor do?

After taking instructions from clients, solicitors will advise on necessary courses of legal action depending on their areas of legal expertise. Most solicitors in the UK are primarily litigators, although many solicitors specialise in specific areas of law and some do their own advocacy cases.

Solicitors work directly with clients and although specific work activities will naturally depend on the solicitor’s area of expertise, they typically involve conversing with clients to establish their firm’s suitability to provide the necessary legal advice and services, taking the client’s instructions and then advising them on the law and legal issues relating to their particular case.

Solicitors deal with all the paperwork and communication involved with their clients' cases, such as writing documents, letters and contracts tailored to their client’s needs, ensuring the accuracy of legal advice and procedure, and preparing papers for court.

Solicitors will also negotiate with clients and opposing parties to secure agreed objectives, gather evidence, supervise the implementation of agreements, calculate claims for damages, compensation, loss of earnings, maintenance etc., and co-ordinate the work of all parties involved in the case. Their work ranges across the whole spectrum of legal work from high value commercial work to personal injury cases, family law issues such as children law and divorce, criminal law and wills probate and the general administration of estates.

Solicitors represent clients in disputes and represent them in court if necessary. In complex disputes however, solicitors will often instruct barristers or specialist advocates to appear in court on behalf of their clients.

If a case goes to court, it is unlikely that a solicitor will represent their client although certain solicitors can appear in court as advocates. Instead, a solicitor will generally refer the work to a barrister or specialist advocate for expert advice or to instruct them to appear in court to represent the client.