Broadly speaking, barristers compared to solicitors are courtroom specialists who specialise in particular areas of law and are therefore often asked by solicitors for their opinion on technical and complex legal questions.
The term ‘lawyer’ refers to both solicitors and barristers. In NSW lawyers qualify as legal practitioners, but may only practice as a solicitor or a barrister, not both.
Solicitors are normally who most people deal with in their legal matters. Solicitors often do a variety of legal work and can appear in court to represent a client, but if a case is complex, they may advice a client to use a barrister to represent them in court.
Barristers are specialist advocates and are usually engaged by the solicitor, not the client, though the client pays their fees.
All practicing lawyers must have a practicing certificate. These are issued by the Bar Association for barristers and by the Law Society for solicitors.
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