Discover the difference between solicitors and lawyers and what each term means

Rose Lawyers on 20 November 2018

When you hear the terms 'Lawyer' and 'Solicitor', it can be hard to know whether they mean the same thing. What is the key difference between them? Can you call a Solicitor a 'Lawyer'?

Here's a short break down of the common terms used to describe legal professionals:

  • Lawyer: A person with a certificate to practice Law. This includes Solicitors, Barristers, Judges and Corporate Counsel.
  • Solicitor: A person with a practising certificate that is not a Barrister or Judge.
  • Barrister: A Lawyer that passed the Bar Examination. They appear in Court on behalf of people and run technical arguments.

What does a Solicitor/Lawyer do?

In Australia, the term 'Lawyer' is used in exchange for the term 'Solicitor' when describing a qualified legal professional who provides advice. In order to be a practicing Lawyer, a person must have completed undergraduate or postgraduate tertiary study. Law graduates must complete Practical or Supervised Legal Training before seeking admission to the legal profession. Only then will a person hold a practicing certificate and be able to call themselves a Lawyer -- and will most likely use the term Lawyer as this is what is commonly used in Australia.

A Solicitor/Lawyer:

  • Can provide legal advice to you on a range of matters.
  • Will usually work directly with you - often within an area of speciality that they focus on.
  • Can perform legal tasks and manage complex matters on your behalf.
  • Will take instructions from you and then provide legal advice and services.
  • Can negotiate on your behalf and will act in your best interests as your representative.

A Solicitor/Lawyer will, depending on the type of service required, gather information, calculate claims amounts, manage Family Law matters, and perform administration of Wills and Estates. If you have a matter that may proceed to Court, it is unlikely that your Solicitor will represent you in complicated matters. Instead, they will refer the matter to a Barrister who may act on your behalf in Court if required.

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Other terms that fall under the 'Lawyer' umbrella

There are other legal professionals whose titles fall under the catch-all term 'Lawyer'.

Barrister

A Barrister is a legal professional and a Lawyer. A Barrister is known for advocacy and providing representation in court. To become a Barrister in Victoria, a person must be a practicing Lawyer and pass the entrance exam through the Victorian Bar. They must also complete an eight-week course and undergo seven months of supervised work under a mentor.

  • Many Barristers are experts in dispute resolution and are highly trained and experienced in anticipating outcomes for particular matters.
  • Barristers can provide clarity and legal guidance in complicated matters. They can often help settle matters before undertaking the unnecessary cost and worry of a trial.
  • Technically you would be correct in calling a Barrister a Lawyer, however the proper and preferred term is Barrister.

Barristers are independent and generally work in Chambers. Barristers are usually briefed by Lawyers to appear in matters.

Attorney

This is a term more commonly heard in the United States of America -- it is quite unusual to hear the term 'Attorney' when referring to a Victorian legal practitioner. Much more common is the term 'Solicitor', or 'Lawyer', as it effectively means the same thing.

Occasionally you may hear the term 'Trademark Attorney', which is used to refer specifically to someone who provides representation in certain matters of Intellectual Property Law. The proper name for this person in Australia is 'Trademark Lawyer'.

Which is most commonly used in Australia?

It is common in Australia to hear someone referring to their 'Solicitor' when they are talking about their specialist legal practitioner. Usually, they mean 'Lawyer'. You will approach a Lawyer when you need general legal advice on a matter, and you will require the services of a Barrister if you have a complex matter and require representation in Court. Your Lawyer is the one who will provide instructions to a Barrister.

Rose Lawyers is your trusted legal representative on a range of matters. Whether you need comprehensive advice on Business or Property Law, or if you are seeking representation for a Family Law matter, we are here for you. Call us today for help with your legal matter on 03 9878 5222.