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What’s the Difference Between a Lawyer and a Barrister?

What’s the Difference Between a Lawyer and a Barrister?

Although their roles often overlap, lawyers and barristers have different roles and are used in different situations.

10th December 2018

You’ve probably heard the terms ‘lawyer’ and ‘barrister’ numerous times in your favourite TV shows or in the news. Sometimes used interchangeably, lawyers and barristers have different expertise and are used in different circumstances.

Many people do not know the difference between a lawyer and a barrister. While some think there is no difference, the other end of the spectrum see a radical difference.

What is the difference between Lawyer and Barrister?

Nowadays, there is a misconception about the use of the terms ‘lawyer’ and ‘barrister’. In short, barristers are expert lawyers who specialise in court litigation while lawyers can be both solicitors or barristers.

What is a Solicitor?

In Australia, ‘lawyers’ are people who have been admitted to the legal profession either as a solicitor or as a barrister. A solicitor is a lawyer that provides legal advice to clients in one or more areas of law. They build their experience in certain areas of the law which can include commercial law, construction law and property law etc. Solicitors are the first point of contact individuals or businesses refer to when they need legal advice or service. They manage the daily legal affairs of their clients which can include to name a few:

  • Drafting the required paperwork and communication involved with their clients’ cases
  • Tailoring and writing letters and contracts to their client’s needs
  • Ensuring the accuracy of legal advice and procedure
  • Negotiating with clients and opposing parties to secure agreed objectives
  • Completing the daily administrative work required
  • Invoicing the client for legal fees and other costs incurred

Therefore, “lawyer” is an umbrella term that includes any licensed and qualified legal professional to advise clients on various legal matters.

What is a Barrister?

When a dispute is complex, solicitors generally refer the work to a Barrister for expert advice and/or to instruct them to appear in Court to represent the client. It is very uncommon for a client to go straight to a barrister without going to a solicitor first. Barristers are also self-employed and usually work in separate chambers with other barristers unlike solicitors.

Barristers advise on the outcome of cases and the strategic elements of running a court case. They will also conduct court appearances, presenting their client’s case and argue their side. Think of a solicitor and a barrister as a general medical practitioner (GP) and a specialist. Just like a GP, the solicitor assesses the problem, does the required tests and gives you their advice and if required, will refer you to a specialist to get an expert opinion. Both a GP and a specialist are doctors. Similarly, both solicitors and barrister are also lawyers.


Essentially, both barristers and solicitors are lawyers where solicitors refer to barristers for complex matters. Thus, a barrister is a lawyer, but a lawyer is not necessarily a barrister.

Need legal help? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 for advice and obtain a fixed-fee quote from our largest online network of expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.

Kemal Arikan

Kemal is a legal intern at Lawpath as part of the content team. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Business at UTS.