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What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?

Difference between a barrister and a solicitor

A common query from clients is “what is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister”? It is understandable that these two roles sometimes cause confusion given the roles of a solicitor and barrister can be interchangeable throughout times in a legal matter.

When would you use a solicitor?

Generally a solicitor spends a great deal of their time involved in the day-to-day legal affairs of their clients.

Such day-to-day affairs can include:

  • telephone and email communication;
  • drafting letters and court documents;
  • conveyancing
  • out of court negotiations; and
  • the administrative conduct of the legal file.

A solicitor can and often does appear in court on behalf of their client however a solicitor mainly appears for preliminary and interim hearings (for example: the first court hearing of your matter or hearings that deal primarily with administrative issues)..

When would you use a barrister?

A barrister (also known as “Counsel”) spends most of their time in court conducting court appearances and primarily appearing in court trials. A barrister is also commonly retained for a matter to provide specialist advice on a particular legal issue, or to assist the solicitor in drafting complicated court documents.

It is good practice that barristers are retained when a legal matter involves complicated issues of law or procedure. Barristers are highly skilled in navigating the court process and can provide an advantage to a client’s case in certain circumstances.

"It must be noted that a client cannot retain a barrister without retaining a solicitor first and foremost."


It must be noted that a client cannot retain a barrister without retaining a solicitor first and foremost. The solicitor is responsible for all of the communication between the client and the barrister. The client cannot simply telephone the barrister seeking advice or assistance, as it is the role of the solicitor to handle all such day-to-day affairs. 

It is dependent on each individual case as to whether or not the client will need the representation of both a solicitor and a barrister. Generally, the more complicated a matter is the more necessary it is to have both a solicitor and a barrister represent the client.

The solicitor will advise the client at an appropriate time in the case whether or not it is advantageous to retain a barrister and what additional costs hiring a barrister may incur. The client can then make an informed decision about retaining a barrister for their case.  

If you would like to speak with a solicitor about your Family Law matter please get in touch directly with today’s blog writer, Senior Associate in Family Law, Camille McDonald

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal and South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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