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I've seen people refer to lawyers using many different terms, such as solicitor and barrister. Are there any differences? Are they all just lawyers?
Lawyer is a general term used to describe anyone who practices law, including barristers and solicitors. In the United States the terms lawyer and attorney are the most common, and they are used interchangeably, as they are synonyms. However, historically, many countries have had a split legal system whereby lawyers have two distinct professional tracks, that of either a solicitor or a barrister. The most basic difference between a barrister and a solicitor is that barristers traditionally represented and defended clients in court, while solicitors performed out of court legal work i.e., transactional work, and worked more directly with clients.
Over the years, the two have fused together, and in many countries today the distinction has disappeared. In many countries, a person can hold the qualification of both a barrister and a solicitor. Today, many countries that still carry on this distinction allow solicitors to appear in lower courts and some in all courts.
In countries that have kept the distinction, if you are looking for or working with a lawyer to help with taxes, trademark, business regulations, etc., you are likely looking for or working with a solicitor. Solicitors generally represent a wide variety of client types, including individuals, companies, government entities, etc. In the event of a lawsuit reaching the courts, the solicitor is likely to hire a barrister to represent you in court. In countries that have abolished the distinction, you will be working with a lawyer who can either represent you in court or hire a lawyer who specializes in litigation.
Keep in mind, the legal system functions differently in each country, so you will need to understand the system specific to the country in which you are doing business.More