Legal Profession in Great Britain

8. Legal Profession in Great Britain.

There are several types of legal professions in Great Britain:

  1. Solicitors.
  2. Barristes
  3. Judges.
  4. Coroners.
  5. Clerks of the Court.
  6. Jury (which is rather a civil duty than a profession): see the Topic Jury Nowadays, the division between solicitors and barristers is quit s vague, but generally their functions in law are supposed to be different.


  • give legal advice.
  • prepare legal documents in connection with matters which never come to court, such as the making of wills, selling of land and property.
  • prepare cases for barristers to conduct in court.
  • in certain circumstances, they may appear as advocates in the Crown Court, County Courts and Magistrate's Courts, hut often they employ barristers to do this work.

Solicitors are controlled by a body called the Law Society. Formal legal training is not necessary for a solicitor. They must have a 5 year practical experience before they become qualified. After that, they should have a few years of seeing how solicitors work.

In theory, only a solicitor can employ a barrister. When he does so, he is said to brief  him, i.e., he gives to the barrister written instructions which are called a brief. This ensures that only a barrister who is fit to take the case is employed, because the solicitor either knows or can find out the qualifications of a barrister before he employs him.

Solicitors work in partnerships, where each partner is a specialist in a particular branch of law. The highest rank is a Senior Partner.


  • are experts in the interpretation of law and advocacy - the art of presenting cases in court
  • they can appear only in the High Court and court above the High Court.
  • they are controlled by the body called the Bar
  • to become a barrister, a person should have several years of learning and then pass special exams.(lhe Bar exams) Every student who wants to become a barrister has, in addition to passing exams, to attend dinners in the Inns or Court. Barristers meet in the Inns to gain more experience in law and to meet their colleagues.

There are four Inns, involving all the barristers:

  • Inner Temple;
  • Middle Temple;
  • Lincoln's Inn;                                  ' .
  • Gray's Inn.

Every student who is called to the Bar will normally have eaten at least 36 dinners in his Inn.

For over 150 years, attending the Inns of Court was all a person had to do to become a barrister. There were no compulsory examinations at all. Since 1872 a person has had to take exams as well The extraordinary thing is that until 1965 a person did not need to have any practical experience before addressing u court. Now a person has to have six months' experience as a pupil of a practising barrister before he may plead in court.

The highest position of a barrister is u Queen's Counsel (QC). Barristers tire appointed to this rank by the Sovereign on the recommendation of the lord Chancellor. A QC is not allowed to prepare a lot of technical documents as an ordinary barrister, and accordingly most ot his work is in court. A QC wears a silk gowl, that is why to become a QC is called 'to take silk'. A QC is not allowed to appear in Court without having a junior with him, and it is more expensive to have a QC in one's case.

Unlike solicitors, barristers do not have the right to form partnerships. They work independently, though they can sit together in one office. A barrister is a rather remote figure and cannot be contacted by a client directly, it can only be done through a solicitor.


The vast majority of judges in Great Britain are unpaid. They are called Magistrates, or Justices of the Peace (JP's). They are ordinary citizens who are selected not because they have any legal training but because they have 'sound common sense' and understand their fellow human beings. They give up their time voluntarily.

A small group of judges are not magistrates. They are called High Court Judges and they deal with the most serious cases, such as those for which a criminal might be sent to prison for more than a year. High Court Judges are paid salaries by the state and have considerable legal training (They are trained as banisters).

Coroners have a medical or legal training (or both) and inquire into violent or unnatural deaths. Clerks of he Court look after administrative and legal matters in the courtroom.

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