To defend or prosecute the accused, the criminal justice system employs barristers and solicitors. I am now going to explain the work carried out by both barristers and solicitors and then give a brief analysis of the training that they have to experience. There are approximately eight thousand practising barristers in England and Wales, which are collectively known as the 'bar'. The barristers are annually called to the bar by their governing body. This body is known as the 'General Council of the Bar'. On invitation of the bar, the barristers must become a member of an Inns of Court in order to continue practising.
In England and Wales there are four Inns of Court, and each practising barrister will be assigned to one. These four Inns of Court are called Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln's Inn and also Gary's Inn. In order to become a barrister you must complete a four-year training course in which you must receive a degree. The initial course is a regular degree based one, and on completion of this all practising barristers must complete the Bar vocational course or if you have gained a non-law degree then you must complete the Common Professional Examination.
Whilst the student is on the vocational course, they must dine at their assigned Inns of Court. After this has been achieved and all examinations have been passed the student must then obtain a training contract known as a pupillage. Whilst on the pupillage the person will practise in the shadow of a barrister. This pupillage will last twelve months, but can be done in two ways: Either one twelve month block of training or two six month periods in which the trainee should gain greater experience. All barristers are self-employed but works from a set of chambers, which they all have to pay running costs for.
All barristers have an equal share of rights in the chamber and they have adapted a system in where by they queue for the next job. This means that in theory all of the barristers should get equal amounts of work. In each set of chambers is a Clerk who gets a percentage of all earnings, for negotiating fees for the clients and handing out the work to the barristers prepared. There are approximately sixty-six thousand practising solicitors in England and Wales, which are all governed by an independent body known as the Law Society.
In order to become a solicitor, it is useful to have a law degree, however it is also possible to become a solicitor with a non-law degree. These people will have to sit the Common Professional Examination, which is the same as the barristers. After this practising solicitors will have to sit a one-year course in which they will have to deal with interviewing clients, advocacy, drafting documents and also research. After completing this they must then obtain Articles, which is a training contract similar to a pupillage.
However, this lasts for two years and during this time the practising solicitor must complete a twenty-day professional course. Solicitors usually work for private firms, but they may also work for government departments. There are two types of solicitor firms, which are big city firms and small high street practices. The small high street practices tend to offer a wide range of legal services, whereas the large city firms tend to specialise in certain areas of the law, for example commercial.
All solicitors may act as an advocate in the magistrate's court and the county court. However, a solicitor may only act as an advocate in the county court once the defendant has committed the sentence. But he is only applicable for this if he has been defending the accused from the first day of the trial. If this is the case then the solicitor will have the right to represent a client in the crown court if he has obtained a certificate of advocacy. If the solicitor wishes to gain this then they must have at least ten years experience in the magistrates or the county court.
A solicitor deals directly with clients and enters into a contract with them unlike that of a barrister. If a client refuses or cannot pay their fees then the solicitor has the right to sue the client for the fees, however, this also means that the client can sue the solicitor for poor service in or out of court. Q: How far is it true to say that the distinctions between the two kinds of lawyers are becoming blurred? I believe that it is true to say that the distinctions between the two kinds of lawyers are becoming blurred for several reasons.
The first being that barristers are now able to take instructions directly from a client, without having to go through a solicitor. This has become as a result of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, where fusion was introduced. Fusion is the merging of the legal profession, and as previously stating allows solicitors the right to appear in the crown court, which was originally only work for barristers. Naturally there are advantages and disadvantages to fusion. One advantage is that the costs are reduced because there is only one legal fee to pay, as only one lawyer is needed.
Another advantage is that there is less duplication of work because all of the details will be passed on from the solicitor to the barrister, meaning that they share all the same files making it less time consuming and also more efficient. There is less communication between the two types of lawyers because of this and therefore it makes it less likely that there can be a misunderstanding. A final and probably the most important advantage is that there is continuity through out the case meaning that the client will not have to change lawyers half way through and avoid any last minute changes to the case.
However, as fusion seems like it has had an overall positive effect on the legal system there are disadvantages to it. The first disadvantage is the loss of advocacy skills for solicitors due to the fact they will spend less time in front of a judge. The Cab Rank Rule would also be lost and all the work would then be spread unevenly and the system is then likely to disadvantage young barristers. In the current system barristers are unable to pick which cases they want to conduct and they must accept the first case offered to them, this makes it a fair system.
The Main disadvantage would be that specialist barristers would become inaccessible due to them being employed by the larger law firms, making them too expensive for the public. Overall I would say that fusion is a good idea because there seems to be more advantages than disadvantages to it. I think that due to the whole process being speeded up, fees reduced and more continuity throughout the case there is definitely a strong advantage to fusion from a clients point of view and also a barristers and solicitors.