What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?

The difference between a barrister and a solicitor is subtle in that they are both types of lawyers who practice in the Australian legal system. There is a great deal of overlap in terms of their skill sets and responsibilities, but there are some very important differences in how they operate.

A solicitor is a lawyer who works directly with clients to provide legal advice, draft legal documents such as subpoenas and contracts, engage in legal research, deal with stakeholders and act in negotiations. They may also represent clients in court, but this would typically not involve trials.

A barrister differs by working as a specialist advocate who provides legal representation to clients in court. Barristers are used by solicitors to provide representation in higher courts like the County Court, the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal. They are often involved in complex legal disputes, such as commercial or criminal trials, and their main role is to present arguments and evidence on behalf of their client in court.

Of course this is a very general description. There are some solicitors who appear as advocates in the Supreme Court, and there are some barristers who rarely appear in court at all and focus on providing legal research and expert opinions on complex areas of law.