The Difference Between a Lawyer, a Barrister, a Solicitor, and an Attorney
Some people use the words ‘lawyer’, ‘barrister’ and ‘attorney’ interchangeably, and they only find out that these designations are not the same when they start searching to hire one. Here is a description of what each of these means so you can understand which legal expert you need when you are looking for one.
A lawyer simply refers to an individual who has been trained in the field of law. If they have successfully graduated from a law school; they are regarded as lawyers, whether or not they give out legal advice. However—and this is an important point here—lawyers are bound by law to refrain from representing people until they pass the bar exam. Till then, they are limited to jobs like policy consultants or advisors to the government.
In the US, to become an attorney, one needs to pass the demanding bar exam, which lasts for 2-3 days. Attorneys are legally allowed to represent clients in court. It is important to note that while all attorneys are considered to be lawyers (because they have graduated from law schools), not all lawyers are attorneys.
In the UK, ‘lawyer’ is a general term that is further divided into two categories, one of them being barristers. A barrister is a lawyer who represents people in court and tribunals and provides legal advice to their clients in written form.
A barrister is hired by a solicitor.
The second category of lawyers in the UK is that of solicitors. They are permitted to conduct litigation in court but cannot plead. Unlike barristers, they deal directly with the clients. However, they often hire barristers to represent their client’s case if it goes to court.