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Who is a solicitor? Who is a barrister?

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Many persons have asked me the above questions and I will devote this article to answering those questions. Persons trained in law and enrolled in the practice of law are generally referred to as lawyers or legal practitioners. {{more}}

In the United States the word attorney-at-law is more frequently used. We have often heard our relatives and friends from England talk about their solicitor. The words “solicitor” and “barrister” are used in our laws as they were received from England. As a starting point we will first look at solicitors and barristers in England.

England

Both solicitors and barristers generally pursue academic studies in law leading to the bachelor of law degree (LLB) at a university but they pursue different paths in their professional training as they perform different functions.

A solicitor acts as a legal adviser who consults with clients and prepares legal documents. He/she does not appear on behalf of clients in the higher courts. Matters that must be heard in superior courts are normally passed on to a barrister who is admitted to plead in court. However, the role of solicitors have expanded recently. All solicitors are members of the Law Society while barristers are members of the Inns of Courts and disciplinary measures are taken by those bodies.

The Caribbean

The roles of barrister and solicitor in the Caribbean are fused. This is also the case in some territories that were once colonies of Britain. Caribbean institutions in Jamaica, Trinidad and the Bahamas provide for a two-year training course to those who have completed a bachelor of law degree. A certificate of legal education is issued with the successful completion of the course and the graduate is qualified to be a solicitor and barrister.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The law in SVG provides for the enrolment of both barrister and solicitor. Enrolment is done by the judge of the High Court. The law allows one who is called to the bar as a barrister to practice as a solicitor. Hence, lawyers who qualify as barristers in England automatically become solicitors when they enrol in SVG. In other Caribbean islands, lawyers trained as barristers in England must attend a six-month training course at a law school in the Caribbean before they are admitted to the Bar in their country. Lawyers trained in the United States who want to enrol in St. Vincent and the Grenadines must pursue a six-month training at the law school in Trinidad or the Bahamas.

The Bar

The whole body of lawyers is collectively known as the Bar and the word barrister is derived from it. There is a ranking system comprising junior and senior counsels. Time at the Bar is checked from the time of enrolment. At the top of the senior level is the Queen’s Counsel. In England it is a senior-level barrister or advocate originally appointed to serve as counsel to the queen. In SVG the title is given to barristers with distinguished years of service at the Bar. Collectively, Queen’s Counsels form the inner Bar while the others comprise the outer Bar. Queen’s Counsels are distinguished from other barristers as they wear silk gowns in court and they sit in the front seat with the prosecutor. It is the court that enrols lawyers and it is the court that could suspend or strike them off the roll.

A barrister is referred to as counsel and advocate. You retain him/her when you pay a retainer (fee) and he looks after all your matters until the case is finished. You are free to go to court when your matter is heard but you cannot speak unless you are a witness. If you want to communicate with your lawyer while he is in court you can send him a note and he will find time to speak to you if the matter is urgent.



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