Legal services can be provided by a number of individuals and organisations. The legal profession includes solicitors and barristers but there are others such as legal executives and paralegals who also play an important role.

Solicitors

When we think about the legal profession, we usually have solicitors in mind. Many solicitors work from high street offices offering a variety of legal services. Most of their work is non-contentious, meaning it doesn’t involve dispute resolution or going to court. A great deal of the work performed by solicitors involves drafting documents. Their services include:

  • Wills and estate planning
  • Probate and estate distribution
  • Trustee services
  • Conveyancing
  • Divorce settlements
  • Company formations and contracts
  • Employment matters, mostly on behalf of employers

Some solicitors do contentious work such as criminal defences or civil litigation, however, most of their work is office based. The majority of practices are partnerships where each partner specialises in an area of the law. Solicitors are often employed by larger firms, government departments and companies. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

REFERENCESee legal services: conduct and client care for more information about the duties and obligations of solicitors.

Solicitors have rights of audience in the magistrates courts and county courts. This means they can represent clients at criminal and civil hearings. They also have limited rights of audience in the Crown Court. It is possible to apply for higher rights of audience to allow them to appear in the Crown Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Barristers

Their main roles is representing clients in court and they have rights of audience in all courts and they tend to work mostly in the higher courts, where their rights are almost exclusive. Barristers are self-employed and not allowed to work in partnerships or form limited companies. They work in offices called Chambers which are usually shared by a number of Barristers who share the rent and all expenses including administration and secretarial help. Barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board.

Barristers are not normally approached directly by an individual, the contact is made through a solicitor who tend to use a particular set of Chambers where they are familiar with the Barristers that practice there. Barristers often advice solicitors on complex matters presented by their clients.

Barristers are commonly referred to as ‘Counsel’. After 10 years they can apply to become a Queen’s Council, which is what the abbreviation ‘QC” stands form. Barristers who are not QCs are referred to as Junior Counsel and QCs as Leading Counsel.

Legal executives

A legal executive is a lawyer that has qualified through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and is also regulated by this professional body. They specialise in one practice area. Their duties include:

  • providing legal advice and explaining legal matters;
  • interviewing witnesses;
  • negotiating on behalf of clients;
  • doing legal research and collecting information;
  • drafting documents
  • drawing up wills and advising on estate planning and inheritance tax;
  • assisting solicitors and barristers in court;
  • represent clients in the lower courts.

Paralegals

Paralegals are people who work in legal practice but are not qualified as any of the above. They perform a variety of tasks within the firms, not only assisting qualified lawyers but also working as fee earners themselves. Many paralegals do almost the same work as a solicitor. They have their own clients, negotiate on their behalf  and carry out the necessary procedures to achieve their goals. There are professional bodies for paralegals such as:

Membership of the above bodies is optional, as a profession, paralegals are not regulated.

Licensed Conveyancers

They are specialist property lawyers dealing exclusively with the process of buying, selling and leasing residential and commercial property. They are regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.