The two main forms of lawyer in England and Wales are Solicitors and Barristers. Neither is more important than the other but they have different roles, so their training is different and they work in very different ways.
The first point of call for someone seeking legal advice will usually be a solicitor. The solicitor will meet with you, discuss your legal issues, draft and complete the relevant paperwork and communicate on your behalf with the relevant parties. Should your legal issue not require time in court, the problem can often be resolved solely in a solicitor’s office. However, solicitors are able to represent clients in magistrates’ courts, county courts and tribunals. If the case will involve a hearing at one of these courts, it may again be the case that a solicitor may be able to do everything required to resolve the matter, although many solicitors prefer not to conduct advocacy.
Should you find yourself with a more specific and complex legal issue to tackle, your solicitor may suggest involving a barrister with specialist knowledge of the law around your specific problem. The main role of a barrister is to represent clients in court, so should this be what the case requires, hiring a barrister will be necessary. Barristers tend to represent clients in the higher courts such as Crown Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and the House of Lords. Should a barrister be required, it is likely that a solicitor will instruct one to advise and represent you in court.
It is possible to contact a barrister directly if, as the client, you are sure this is the appropriate course of action. A barrister can provide specific advice on complex legal matters and provide mediation and arbitration services. On the other hand, you may not feel comfortable contacting a barrister directly, and it might not be appropriate for your case, so a solicitor can help you.
Barristers are usually self-employed, working through Chambers. Most barristers have a clerk, who arranges their diary and manages fees.