Are Barristers the same as Solicitors?
No. Broadly speaking, lawyers are split into two groups, solicitors and barristers. They involve different training for example.
In general terms, barristers are primarily associated with advocacy in court whereas solicitors spend more time with clients preparing cases prior to a trial, collecting evidence, preparing statements and corresponding with the other side and the court, if it is a dispute resolution or litigation case. There are many more solicitors than barristers – approximately 140,000 solicitors compared with just 16,000 practising barristers, employed and self-employed, in England and Wales. Solicitors are represented by the Law Society and mainly regulated by the SRA or Solicitors Regulation Authority. Barristers are regulated by the Bar Council.
Although it is now possible to instruct some barristers directly, the vast majority are still instructed by solicitors in the course of a case.
Tto explain the difference between them, in the past two professions were sometimes compared with doctors – with solicitors as GPs and barristers as consultants. however over the years the difference between the two professions have become more blurred. Increasingly solicitors appear in court and become judges, for example.
Despite the high level of expertise needed for both roles, mistakes are made and solicitors and barristers can be sued for professional negligence.
Barristers are there to represent people in court and argue their case. Whilst it is possible for individuals to represent themselves, this is a highly risky option and even though solicitors will sometimes conduct court advocacy, barristers are used the vast majority of the time. Solicitors will often instruct barristers to represent a client in court and barristers will make sure that ‘pleadings’ and other court documents are prepared before trial.
What are the most common causes of barrister negligence claims?
Professional negligence claims against barristers generally relate to opinions given in disputes between competing parties, which is an important role for barristers. The courts understand that barristers often have no guidance on relatively new legal issues and as a result often afford barristers protection. In the past, barristers could not be sued for professional negligence however that rule has changed.
You do, of course, have to approach a negligence claim against a barrister cautiously. You must be absolutely sure that you have a case and talking to an experienced professional negligence solicitor first about the strength of your claim is essential. Barristers are of course particularly skilful at defending legal challenges. Their professional skill and experience makes them fairly resilient to negligence claims. Furthermore, the desire to prevent a surge of claims against barristers means that professional indemnity insurers defend barristers very strongly.
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