In Australia, there are a number of terms used to describe legal practitioners. The three most common are lawyer, solicitor, and barrister. Confusion often arises as to the difference between a lawyer, a solicitor and a barrister. The aim of this article is to clear up this confusion, with a specific focus on the practise of law in New South Wales.
What is a lawyer?
The term “lawyer” is a general term to describe all New South Wales legal professionals, referring to both barristers and solicitors. In fact, being a lawyer is a simple way of stating that you are qualified to provide legal advice in New South Wales.
What is a solicitor?
A solicitor is a lawyer that is involved in the day to day management of your case. Specifically, in the case of criminal matters, your solicitor will be responsible for your initial appointment, receiving instructions, providing advice, drafting letters, or any court documents that your case may require. A solicitor is qualified to represent individuals in court, and is trained in sentencing, preparing and running hearings, and appeals.
A solicitor will also have an in-depth portfolio of barristers that, if required, will have the expertise to run your case in court. It is important to note that if you wish to retain a barrister for your case, you will first need to retain a solicitor.
What is a barrister?
A barrister is a lawyer who is specifically trained in advocacy, i.e. representing clients in the courtroom. Generally, a barrister must be retained through a solicitor. Further to this, once a barrister is retained, although they may meet with you prior to you appearing in court, they will not communicate with you directly. However, your solicitor will be in direct contact with your barrister and they will provide you with all relevant information.
Barristers are typically retained by a solicitor to provide legal representation in highly complex legal matters, and may also provide written advice on specific areas of law. An example of this may be when you are undecided if you should plead guilty or not guilty. A barrister may be retained by a solicitor to provide written advice as to whether or not the barrister believes you have a strong case.
In 2018, the New South Wales Government brought in the Early Appropriate Guilty Plea Reforms. These reforms have altered the legal landscape by requiring the involvement of barristers earlier in serious criminal matters. These reforms make it all the more important for you to retain a solicitor early in your case to receive the best outcome.
Not sure whether you need a solicitor, a barrister, or both?
Nyman Gibson Miralis has a team of dedicated solicitors and criminal law specialists who provide expert defence in all criminal law matters, including complex and international cases involving multiple jurisdictions and investigative agencies. In cases where the involvement of a barrister is deemed appropriate, we work with the best barristers in NSW.
Contact us if you require assistance.