Lawyer vs Barrister: Explain The Jargon

Legal jargon and the difference between terms can be confusing, even to people studying the law. Sometimes, you may wonder what is the difference of a lawyer vs barrister. If the questions of ‘What is a barrister?’ or ‘what is a lawyer’ or even ‘what is the difference between the two’ have crossed your mind, not to worry, this article here should answer your questions!


Barristers are of the legal profession  who go in front of the judge and argue their client’s case to the judge (and/ or Jury is applicable) against the defending barrister. Barristers  can usually be identified by the large gowns and old-fashioned wigs they wear to court. For a more in depth look at what a barrister is, see here. 

Lawyer vs Barrister:

What is the difference between a lawyer vs barrister? The short answer? Nothing! A lawyer is a broad term to describe the professionals within general legal vocation. Barristers are required to have a relevant law degree (such as a Bachelor of Laws), be admitted following completion of their Practical Legal Training (colloquially known as PLT) and completion of the Barristers course required by the Queensland Bar Association. Lawyers who successfully complete these conditions are then known as barristers and are separate from solicitors. 

Solicitors generally do a lot of the out of court work required of a lawyer, such as drafting and making documents for submission to relevant parties, managing client files, communicating between parties out of court and are the primary party who engages barristers to act for them within court proceedings. Often, solicitors sit alongside barristers at court and usually are there to assist the barrister during proceedings.

An interesting side note is that any lawyer (barristers and solicitors) is a Justice of the Peace, so if you ever need a legal document witnessed and you have a lawyer friend, you may ask the to witness the document as opposed to finding another Justice of the Peace within the community.  Another difference between barristers and solicitors, as since they are technically different professions, they are held accountable to different rules. Solicitors are held against the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012 and the barristers of Queensland are held against the Bar Association of Queensland Conduct Rules.

Finding the difference between a lawyer vs barrister is fairly easy.

Lawyer vs Barrister

As stated before, Lawyer is a blanket term for a large range of different professions which could be considered ‘lawyers’. There are different terms for different types of lawyers, including:

  • Conveyancer who isa lawyer who primarily handles property settlements when houses are bought and sold, 
  • Prosecutor who is a barrister who acts for the government justice department in bringing criminals to justice in court proceedings, 
  • Defense counsel who  are the other side of the coin of a prosecutor, they will usually defend a person accused of a crime who is brought before the court within a criminal trial proceeding. 

Barristers are not confined to criminal situations but can encompass many areas such as constitutional, corporate, family and succession law. There are many more terms to describe lawyers in more specialised areas  which you may encounter but these listed are the most common. 

As mentioned before, the other type of lawyer in Australia is what is known as a ‘solicitor’. These types of lawyers occupy a larger set of law areas as it is a diverse field. The list of jobs for solicitors can range from:

  • property lawyers (both commercial and residential), 
  • Administrative lawyers (who typically deal with government matters such as where a minister of government has applied a law incorrectly and someone would like it challenged, 
  • Tax solicitors who deal (how very predictable) with issues dealing with tax and can be hired privately to see where law applies and where it doesn’t, in respect to your taxes, both personal and business.

 Another one you may have seen or encountered is personal injuries or compensation lawyers, who deal with things like workplace injuries and insurance. However when looking for a lawyer, make sure that the lawyer is also one that is a ‘legal practitioner’. This definition carries a special meaning in the legal world as legal practitioners are the ones who currently hold a practicing certification and are allowed to give legal advice to clients. 

 The legal industry is a large space, so articles like this are here to help you navigate it so you know which lawyer you should employ for your own legal issue.

How do I engage a barrister?

In all situations, if you are faced with a legal issue, it is best practice to hire a solicitor to assist in translating the legal jargon and helping you progress  in your legal issue. If however the issue requires a legal appearance, the solicitor will make the determination as to whether it is in your best interests in terms of time, money and degree of success predicted. This is because barristers are very expensive to retain due to their skills required in and out of court. Their pricing can also increase based on prestige and related matters when coming to barrister notoriety.

 Often a solicitor will try to exhaust all other options before going to trial with a barrister as the financial and emotional costs of proceeding the case to court can be large, costly, and stressful. Prior to going to court, the plaintiff must exhaust all other available options to negotiate and mitigate the issue between themself and the other party, so as to not waste court resources.If a plaintiff believes they  have a good chance at winning their case, they are fully within their rights to seek advice from their  solicitor. However, if their  solicitor does not think that the  chances of winning are strong, the solicitor may strongly advise against this and refuse the case.  

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