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One person- several names!

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In our jurisdiction, the following words are used in relation to the same person, namely: advocate, counsel, attorney-at-law, legal practitioner and lawyer. They are in some ways related to the roles that one person plays in our justice system. That person is also called barrister and solicitor. These have been traditionally two separate roles in England. Barrister and solicitor receive training specific to their area. The client goes to the solicitor for advice on legal matters, and where a matter has to be pleaded in courts it is passed on to the barristers. A barrister is often differentiated from the solicitor as one who wears a wig and a gown. Today the courts are changing. The solicitors could argue in some courts and the barristers can accept some briefs.

In our own country, a student of law attends the Law School in Barbados for three years and obtains the Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree. He then goes to the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad for two years where he is trained to be a barrister and solicitor. He or she is admitted to the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Bar to practice law as barrister and solicitor.

The advocate

An advocate is the person who is engaged to represent you in court, that is, he or she assists, defends or pleads a case on your behalf. The advocate renders legal advice, aids and pleads your cause before the court or a tribunal. An advocate is learned in the law and duly admitted to practice. The advocate pays attention to precedent. It is primarily this role in court that makes him an advocate.

Traditionally in England this particular role distinguishes a barrister from solicitor. Whereas a solicitor set the groundwork in a case, he or she generally refers the case to a barrister or specialist advocate for expert advice, or to instruct them to appear in High Court and Crown Court to represent the client. In that way barristers are dependent on the solicitors for work. In SVG all barristers are solicitors. Our country is zoned for the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad. There are two other law schools in the Caribbean region, namely the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas.

Counsel /counselor

Many persons use this word to address a lawyer. It is in regard to his role as a member of the legal profession, giving legal advice and handling the legal affairs of clients. It is in association with his role on behalf of clients in civil, criminal or administrative actions and proceedings.

The term “senior counsel” and “junior counsel’ are used frequently. These terms are self-explicit, but goes to the senior and junior in law, not in age. In a matter, a younger lawyer in law could be the senior in the matter, but in many cases the senior in age coincides with the senior in law.

Lawyer

Lawyer is a generic word covering wide area of law practice. Hence a lawyer is an advocate, a legal practitioner, a barrister or solicitor who is licensed to practice law. He or she is obligated to uphold the law and represent his client to the best of his or her ability. He must observe a code of conduct. Most lawyers practice courtroom litigation, whether in the High Court, Magistrate’s Court, or the Family Court. Some work in the Attorney’s General Office or the DPP office and the Company office.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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