Very confusingly, a lawyer can be either a solicitor or a barrister.
Solicitors and barristers are separate branches of the legal profession.
As a rough analogy, a barrister is like the medical specialist of the legal profession. Just as a GP refers difficult cases to a medical specialist for an opinion, solicitors refer difficult cases to a barrister for an opinion.
Some medical specialists are experts in surgical work in a hospital theatre. Similarly some barristers are experts in advocacy in the legal theatre (Court).
And just as medical specialists practise independently of GPs, barristers practise independently of solicitors.
Barristers have expertise in giving written opinions, or appearing in Court, or both. They usually only get “briefed” with work by a solicitor, and you will not have direct contact with them.
Normally you will only deal with a solicitor. Your solicitor will only brief a barrister if a specialist opinion or Court work is required which the solicitor does not have the time or expertise to undertake.
Of course you need to approve the involvement of a barrister, because you would be paying for 2 lawyers – the solicitor and the barrister. However, if you can afford a barrister you may gain a significant advantage in your dispute.
Barristers are ‘independent’ of you and the solicitor. They are required to practise independently as sole practitioners, and operate from ‘chambers’, such as Francis Burt Chambers in Perth. Chambers are simply places where barristers work in the same location, so they can work in a collegiate and competitive environment.
Solicitors can also practice by themselves as sole practitioners (as I do), but they commonly practice together in a law firm with other solicitors.
Sometimes a solicitor will call himself or herself a ‘barrister & solicitor’ (as I do). This term is interchangeable with ‘solicitor’. Both ‘barristers & solicitors’ and ‘solicitors’ have the right to perform the functions of a barrister ie perform Court work.
However, most lawyers, whether they call themselves a ‘solicitor’ or a ‘barrister & solicitor’ have not practised as an independent ‘barrister’ (as I have).
I currently practise as a ‘barrister & solicitor’. Previously I practised exclusively as an independent barrister at Francis Burt Chambers (leading commercial chambers in Perth). Prior to that I practised in national law firms and in other places.
So I have the skill sets and experience of a solicitor and a barrister, which benefits you because in most cases you won’t need 2 lawyers ie a solicitor and a barrister.