Solicitor vs Lawyer: What’s in a title?

by Fanatic Design

The term Lawyer is commonly used as a generic term to describe an individual who is a Licensed Legal Practitioner. Someone who is qualified in law and legally allowed to offer advice in their specialist area of law. This broad term means that both Solicitors and Barristers are both types of Lawyers.

Our legal team recently asked the question – are we seeing more or less Solicitors? Or are people favouring the term ‘lawyer’ to cover a range of legal roles?

By referring to yourself as a Property Lawyer you open up the whole scope of property legal work for your firm, as opposed to restricting yourself as either a Criminal Solicitor or Criminal Barrister.

To help tackle this question I recently spoke with a successful Contract Dispute Solicitor. My first question was whether they felt that the word Lawyer is becoming more en vogue? And in their industry do they hear it more of less?

“I am not sure that the word Lawyer is taking over, although I think it’s fair to say it’s used more.  The overwhelming majority of solicitors firms (commonly referred to as law firms) will use the terms Solicitor, Barrister, Legal Executive, Paralegal etc rather than ‘Lawyer’ which is a generic term and can mean any of the above.

Traditionally, solicitors deal with the clients directly and instruct barristers predominantly for advocacy in the courts (and also for specialist opinions in much the same way as a consultant doctor might be used in medical matters).

Solicitors do not automatically have the same ‘rights of audience’ as barristers, which means there are certain higher courts that I cannot speak in as a solicitor, unless I pass a higher rights of audience exam.”

All very good but this poses the question are we too traditional to change and expand these barriers? Would it be better for the general public to use one straightforward title, knowing that you have a Lawyer dealing with your case or situation?

Though there are technical differences, practically speaking, only a lawyer would know the difference between Lawyer, Solicitor, Barrister, or in the US courts an Attorney or Esquire with the limitations of each.

Quite simply put I am of the opinion that the general public can probably rest easy in a world of synonym, as long as they ensure that the Lawyer handling their case is also a Solicitor or Barrister.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Lawyer v Solicitor. Which do you use and hear being used the most? Do you think we are relaxing into a world of Lawyers?

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