Episode 2

The Difference Between Barristers & Solicitors

Engaging barristers and solicitors

Strengthening your litigation

In Australia, barristers are specialist advocates who represent clients in court, while solicitors handle day-to-day legal tasks and act as intermediaries. Engaging both is essential in nearly all court proceedings in Australia. Doing so early in the matter is crucial for effective case strategy and comprehensive evidence preparation. Typically solicitors instruct barristers and collaborate as a team to achieve optimal outcomes for clients.

In this episode, Fiona discusses:

  • the distinction between the two roles and their respective responsibilities.
  • the classification of barristers: Senior Counsel and Junior Counsel.
  • how you can achieve the best outcome by engaging a barrister and solicitor in Australian litigation.

Video script

Today, I am coming to you from Albany in Western Australia. I’m here this week instructing counsel in a white-collar criminal matter. I thought I would take the opportunity to talk to you about one of the most frequent questions I receive from clients and lawyers in Europe.

What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor, and why is it essential to engage both if you are involved in court proceedings in Australia?

Unlike many jurisdictions around the world (the UK being one exception), the Australian legal profession still operates as a split profession.

Barristers are specialist independent advocates who typically are the mouthpiece of the client before the court.

Solicitors usually operate within a firm and are the intermediary between the client and the barrister (counsel), the client and the opponent, and the client and the witnesses. Solicitors carry out the nuts and bolts of the transactions and/or litigation. In litigation, they marshall the documents, put together the story surrounding the dispute, and get it into the best form to be put before the court.

Solicitors instruct barristers to appear in court on behalf of their clients. The solicitor is the barrister’s client and is, therefore, responsible for paying the barrister’s fees.

There are a few barristers who will accept instructions directly from a client, but the typical situation is that a barrister will not appear for a client unless instructed by a solicitor.

Barristers are divided into junior and senior counsel. Senior Counsel (or Queen’s Counsel in the UK) have been recognised by their peers and the judiciary as having achieved a particular level of expertise. An experienced Senior Counsel often will not appear for a client without both an instructing solicitor and a junior barrister.

The best outcome for a client in a dispute is usually achieved when a barrister and solicitor work together as a team from the outset of a matter. This allows an overall case strategy to be developed from the outset and gives the barrister ownership of the case and the overall evidence preparation from the start. It allows them to get to know the client and to anticipate any weaknesses or shortcomings in the evidence in plenty of time to minimise their impact on the overall case strategy.

We have a pool of barristers we regularly work with throughout all Australian jurisdictions. We bring them on board very early in a matter so as to have their input into ways to strengthen the client’s position and to deal with any weaknesses or gaps in the client’s case at an early stage, so that we can achieve the best possible outcome, either through a negotiated resolution or, ultimately by having to bring the dispute before the court for resolution.

Key Contact

Fiona Henderson

Read profile

Looking for an Australian lawyer
experienced in litigation and cross-border matters?

If you’re looking for experienced Australian lawyers to represent and protect your interests in Australia,
please let us know how we can help.

+61 2 9173 9894
Free consultation