The Difference between Lawyer, Barrister, Solicitor & Attorney

There are so many different terms thrown about for lawyers you’ve got barrister, solicitor, and attorney; and we won’t even go into the more derogatory names. You see and hear these terms all the time, in the daily newspaper or your favourite movies and TV shows, but if you’re like many people you’ve probably wondered Is there any difference between these words? What does it all mean?’ Let’s clear up some of the confusion.

What is a lawyer?

Let’s start with the most straightforward. A lawyer is anyone who has studied and been trained in law and has received the required qualifications to provide legal advice. To be considered a lawyer in Australia you need to hold a practising certificate and uphold strict professional standards and regulations. Fail to do that, and you lose your licence to practise.


What is the difference between a solicitor and barrister?

These terms are not as interchangeable as you might think. In a nutshell, a solicitor works directly with clients in their law offices. They will give legal advice, draft documents and letters, and prepare the necessary paperwork for the courts. But they may not always represent their client in court.


This is where the barrister comes in. Say you’re embroiled in a family dispute that, because it’s unable to reach a satisfactory resolution in mediation, looks headed for Family Court. You look up Glenn Duker solicitor‘ online to call our offices to seek representation. What we might tell you is that we will happily act as your solicitor, but will recommend and refer you to a barrister who will represent you in court. Barristers typically possess a more specialised understanding of case law and so are in a better position to act on your behalf in a court room if the case is complex or ends up in a higher court.


It should be noted that anyone who is a qualified lawyer is also qualified to become a solicitor or a barrister. To use the practice of Medicine as an analogy, the solicitor is like your GP, whereas the barrister is your specialist.


How about attorney?

This term is not widely used in the legal profession in Australia (apart from of course Power of Attorney and Attorney General which is more a political term). ‘Attorney’ is essentially the US name for a lawyer. They’re probably considered to be more equivalent to a solicitor than a barrister.


Hopefully that clears things up! If you need more specific litigation, business, family and real estate legal assistance, Melbourne lawyer and solicitor Glenn Duker can help with all your requirements. Give us a call for expert legal advice.

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