If you’re not well-versed in the legal field, you may use the terms “solicitor” and “lawyer” interchangeably, however there are key differences between the two. In this blog, we’ll define the terms, their duties/roles and which one you may need for your legal matters.
What is a lawyer?
A lawyer is a person who has completed a legal qualification – usually a Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor degree – which provides them with the training necessary to provide legal advice to clients. A lawyer – or Australian legal practitioner – must also be admitted to the Supreme Court of the relevant state they intend to practice law in, which requires completing PLT (practical legal training) or another approved form of practical experience. The term “lawyer” is a generic term that encompasses all legal practitioners, including solicitors, barristers, judges and corporate counsel.
Lawyers, regardless of their specialty, serve as advocates and advisors to their clients. As advocates, they represent clients in criminal or civil trials, providing evidence and arguing in favour of their client’s case (it’s relevant to note that barristers generally do this in Queensland). As advisers, they provide legal advice to clients on their rights and responsibilities and recommend courses of action in corporate and personal matters. Lawyers also oversee support staff, such as paralegals, legal assistants and legal secretaries, and can have different titles and responsibilities depending on where they work.
What is a solicitor?
A solicitor is a legal practitioner who has completed a law degree and holds a practicing certificate. This certificate is obtained after undergoing practical legal training (PLT) and being admitted to legal practice. Solicitors must then complete 18-24 months of supervised practice before being able to practice unsupervised.
Solicitors provide legal advice to clients in one or more areas of law, such as family law, property law and commercial law. They’re often the first point of contact when an individual or a business needs advice on a legal matter or other legal services. Solicitors manage the daily legal affairs of their client’s case, including dealing with preparatory matters for litigation such as preparing claims and evidence or conducting settlement negotiations.
Which do I need?
Now that you understand the difference between a solicitor and a lawyer, you may be wondering which one you need for your legal matters. Ultimately, it depends on the type of legal service you require.
If you need general legal advice on a matter, such as buying a property or drafting a contract, a solicitor will be the first point of contact. Solicitors have a broad understanding of various areas of law and can assist you with most legal matters. They can also provide legal services such as preparing wills and administering estates.
If you have a complex matter that may proceed to court, such as a criminal case or a dispute over a property, a barrister may be required. Barristers are specialist advocates who represent clients in court and are usually instructed by solicitors to provide legal representation for their clients in court.
However, if you require legal advice in a specific area of law, such as family law or criminal law, you may want to seek out a lawyer who specialises in that area of law. Lawyers have in-depth knowledge and experience in their particular area of law and can provide tailored legal advice and representation.
It’s important to note that solicitors and lawyers can work together to provide a comprehensive legal service to clients. For example, a solicitor may refer a client to a lawyer for specialised legal advice and representation, while continuing to manage the client’s legal affairs on a day-to-day basis.
In conclusion, a lawyer and a solicitor are both legal practitioners who have completed legal qualifications and can provide legal advice and services to clients. For further advice, call us today to discuss your legal needs and how we can best help you.