People sometimes wonder what the difference is between a barrister and a solicitor.

  • Barristers are lawyers who specialize in representing clients in court. They are skilled at arguing cases, questioning witnesses, and dealing with factual and legal issues in front of judges.
  • Solicitors are lawyers who focus on legal matters outside of the courtroom. They help with matters such as writing contracts, giving advice on wills and trusts, and handling business transactions.

The distinction between barristers and solicitors is rooted in the English legal tradition. In British Columbia, some lawyers may call themselves barristers, solicitors, or both, but there is no separate qualification required for either distinction. Every lawyer licensed in the province is qualified to practice every aspect of the law. In practice, many lawyers and law firms have hybrid practices that engage in legal work both inside and outside of the courtroom.

The distinction was more pronounced during Canada’s colonial period than it is now. Historically, barristers were viewed as distinguished courtroom advocates, skilled in the art of oral advocacy and adept at presenting cases before a judge and jury, while solicitors were recognized for their expertise in advising clients, drafting legal documents, and facilitating transactions outside of the courtroom.

Over the years, this traditional distinction has become increasingly blurred. Many Canadian lawyers accept matters that require the skills of both a barrister and a solicitor. The prevalence of mediation and arbitration as methods to resolve disputes has blended the roles and made the traditional demarcation between barristers and solicitors less distinct than it once was.

While there used to be a clear distinction between the work of a barrister and the work of a solicitor, nowadays many lawyers do a bit of both. One may find a lawyer representing clients in court on one day and providing advice on a business transaction the next day. Whether a lawyer markets themselves as a barrister, solicitor or both may help you to identify if that lawyer is the right lawyer to help you with your legal issue.

If you are being investigated, or have been charged with a criminal offence call the lawyers at Filkow Law for representation and expert advice.