What are lawyers in Great Britain called

Lawyers in England

In England and Wales there are two types of lawyer for family and civil law: solicitors and barristers.


Solicitors have law firms, either alone or as a partnership with other solicitors. Some are very specialized, others are more general lawyers. As a client, you hire a solicitor to take over your case, advise you in an initial consultation and then represent you. A solicitor

  • So advises you in an initial consultation and then in writing;
  • speaks to you on the phone during the ongoing case;
  • writes to you regularly;
  • correspond with the other party in your case or their solicitor if they are represented by a lawyer; Your solicitor cannot contact the other party directly if the other party is also represented by a lawyer;
  • prepares documents, written testimony and applications for you and submits applications to the court;
  • represents you in some negotiations; otherwise you will be represented by a barrister.

Solicitors have the right to be heard (i.e. they can represent you) in most cases in the Family Court, the County Court and the High Court. However, your solicitor may appoint a barrister to represent you depending on the case, the solicitor's workload, and similar factors.

Solicitor fees

Solicitors' fees are almost always based on time spent measured against one Hourly rate plus 20% VAT (unless you live outside the EU). The time is measured and recorded in units of 1/10 hours. Your solicitor will likely ask you to make an advance payment at the beginning of the case and then send you an invoice on a regular basis (usually monthly or less frequently if nothing much happens in your case) and in turn ask you for another advance payment. Any money you deposit must remain in a separate bank account until an invoice has been sent to you. That’s how long it’s your money. The bill you get from the solicitor also includes other expenses, such as court fees, expert fees and barrister fees.

When choosing a solicitor, hourly rates can be a poor measure of total cost: an experienced lawyer may spend half the time doing something an inexperienced lawyer charges 30% less per hour. Nevertheless, the experienced lawyer is generally cheaper. Some solicitors now offer fixed costs for specific levels. This means that in some cases they need much less time than the average and make a bigger profit, while in other cases they need more time, which then has to be subsidized. At some point the whole thing no longer makes economic sense and in the terms and conditions there is probably a possibility that the lawyer will then bill by the hour again.


Barristers usually specialize in one or two areas of law. Their main tasks are:

  • Representation before dish and
  • consultation at strategically crucial times in a case, either in writing or in a meeting ("Conference").

Your solicitor will send your barrister written instructions ("Instructions", or "Letter" for a court hearing) that summarize the case and indicate what the barrister has to discuss or what the barrister must observe when he or she takes the client to court represents. All important documents and the relevant correspondence on the case are attached to this.

Barristers work in shared offices called “chambers”. In London, these are traditionally located in or around the Inns of Court near Chancery Lane. Barristers have "clerks", employees who manage the office community and negotiate the barrister's fees. There are conference rooms in the chambers; Most barristers have a desk in a room that they share with other barristers, because they are often not in the office anyway, but rather do research in the library, appear in court or advise in a conference. In some chambers, especially in criminal law, the barristers hot-desk, i.e. sit down with their laptop and work wherever there is space.

Some barristers are given the title “Queen’s Counsel“Awarded. This does not mean, however, that they advise the queen, but that they can put the term “QC” after their name and wear different robes (with silk trimmings; hence the term “silk” for QCs). In complex cases and before the higher courts in the second or third instance, QCs sometimes work with other barristers who are not QCs (called “Junior Counsel” as opposed to QCs who are “Senior Counsel”). Both then charge a separate fee. However, QCs can also appear in a case without “Junior”. The titles are highly competitive and therefore there are many very experienced and very good barristers who do not hold the title. Large numbers of barristers apply each year, but only a few are awarded the title.

Barrister's fees

Fixed costs are generally lower for barristers than for solicitors and their hourly rates are therefore generally lower. Still, for the most part, your solicitor will open one every time Flat fee negotiate when a barrister receives instructions, e.g. for an advisory conference or a negotiation. For negotiations that last more than one day, barristers charge a negotiation fee ("letter fee") for the preparations and the first day of the negotiation including an advisory conference immediately before the negotiation and then an additional fee ("referer") for each additional day of negotiation, usually is lower. Sometimes a clerk does not offer a fee until the barrister has seen the instructions and can say how much time he will spend. Of course, the fee also depends on the barrister's work experience, so QC fees are the highest.

Even if a negotiation is canceled, e.g. because the parties come to an agreement at the last minute, the fee is usually due because the barrister can then no longer find alternative assignments for the time reserved. In most cases the clerk will tell the solicitor when this forfeiture fee is due.

Direct mandates for barristers

Some barristers have additional training that allows them to accept direct mandates, which means that any member of the public can mandate this barrister without a solicitor. For parties who otherwise represent themselves because they cannot afford full legal assistance, this can be an economical way of being represented at a court hearing. However, this has several disadvantages:

  • Barristers who are mandated directly usually charge a higher fee than what they would charge if they were mandated by a solicitor (because the file was not prepared for them).
  • Barristers are not allowed to file documents in court, so you still have to do that yourself.
  • Therefore, barristers have no experience how to fill out forms or write standard briefs. For example, it may take longer to fill out a divorce form (and therefore more expensive) than a solicitor.
  • Barristers work in court most of the time, so the barrister you mandated directly may be stuck on a long case when you need urgent advice.
  • Either way, you should seek comprehensive advice early on so that you don't submit an application (or object to an application) when your chances of success are poor. Then you would have saved at the wrong end and it might cost you more overall.

Directly mandating barristers can help certain parties in certain cases, but it is not a solution to saving money in all cases.


May 12, 2016 by Andrea Woelke