The English Legal System
The English legal system comprises of two different branches,
barristers and solicitors.
In the UK at the moment there are around 9,000 barristers and they are
known collectively as the 'Bar'. The governing body for barristers is
the Bar Council, which acts as a kind of trade union, safe guarding
the interests of barristers and regulating barristers training and
activities. All barristers belong to one of the 4 Inns - Inner Temple,
Middle Temple, Grays Inn or Lincolns Inn. There are no significant
differences between any of the Inns.
The majority of barristers work in private practices and they work as
individuals. Barristers aren't allowed to form formal partnerships and
they usually work from sets of 'chambers' in which a number of
barristers are supported by a clerk or clerks. Although barristers are
individuals, within their chambers they operate under the 'cab-rank
rule'. This means that the barristers must accept any case within
their area of competence, providing a proper fee is offered. This rule
ensures proper representation for everyone.
The work of a barrister in a private practice is generally divided
between the preparation of opinions, the drafting of pleadings and the
presentation of cases in court and most barristers specialise either
broadly, like in Common Law, Family or Chancery work or they
specialise narrowly like in Criminal Law, taxation, libel,
administrative law, intellectual property or admiralty work. Although
barristers generally do not deal with the public, they do offer advice
on legal matters to other professionals such as accountants.
There are also employed barristers who work full time for a particular
employer such as large companies, a local authority, the civil service
or the Crown Prosecution Service. Employed barristers are at the
moment mainly concerned with preparatory work and giving advice,
rather than with representing cases in court. The Access to Justice
Act 1999 does however allow them to appear in court if they so choose.
Barristers have rights of audience in any court and they will usually
be engaged by a solicitor on behalf of a client.
There are currently over 100,000 solicitors in the UK. The governing
body for solicitors is the Law Society which is similar to the Bar
Council in that it supervises training and discipline, as well as
acting on behalf of the profession as a whole.
Solicitors work from offices, about 75,000 are currently in practice
in towns, cities and villages throughout the country and about 5,000
are employed as legal advisers to organisations such as local
government, commerce or industry or in the Crown prosecution Service.
Some practising solicitors operate as sole practitioners but most are
partners or assistant solicitors in firms, which vary in size from 2