Monday, February 28, 2011

The Difference: Barrister and Solicitor

In Period novels and movies, we often come across the terms Barrister and Solicitor. I'm sure you British and Commonwealth readers know very well what the difference is/was, but this is English Epochs 101, so bear with us Americans and others, and even inform us, please! Much of my information is from Wikipedia. What I discuss below is the use of the terms in period times, especially before 1873 when the Judicature Act made changes.

Solicitor~ A solicitor dealt with the public, with individuals who needed assistance with a will, Chancery, divorce or other day to day legal matters. They received their training in a five year apprenticeship. Socially, they did not fit into upper class life, as did the barrister.

Barrister~ A barrister did not deal with the public, but would argue in higher courts matters that were prepared and brought to them by solicitors. To become a barrister, one would attend dinners at one of four Inns of Court for three years, after which they might be recommended or "called to the bar" by senior lawyers. There was no exam required. A barrister's wife could be presented at court and they could attend the highest social events.

Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, revolves around a case in Chancery Court. Chancery was notoriously slow in bringing forth decisions, and since it was about the placement of orphaned and abandoned children, and monies from their parent's estates (from what I can tell), that was not a good thing.

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