Solicitors and Barristers

How far is it true to say that the work of Solicitors and Barristers has changed so much that it is no longer necessary for there to be two separate professions? The main issue in this question is the topic fusion. Fusion is the joining of the two main professions in the British Legal System, barristers and solicitors. Fusion is a highly debated subject, because many people would like to stick to tradition, whereas others see no use in having to employ two different people when they could just employ one.

The distinction between barristers and solicitors was broken down in 1990 when the when the Courts and Legal Services Act enabled solicitors to appear as advocates in the higher courts. This move was primarily introduced to bring down the costs of legal proceedings. But solicitors were required to take a complex procedure to obtain permission to conduct such cases, so that by 1998 only 634 solicitors were qualified to do so.

In June 1998, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, sought to enable more solicitor to appear in the higher courts by ending the ability of any one of the four senior judges (the Master of the Rolls, the Lord Chief Justice, the Vice-Chancellor and the President of the Family Division of the High Court) to block solicitors from appearing. There are some advantages to fusion, like the reduction of legal service cost and having to employ only one person to represent you, should your case go to court. However there are also potential disadvantages, like a likely decline in the availability of specialists.

Both the Benson Commission and Marre Committee argued for retaining the division. In those jurisdictions, for example, the USA, where there is no formal division, there still tends to be an informal distinction between office and trial lawyers. But fusion of the two professions would prevent the unnecessary repetition of work that occurs at the moment. A client goes to a solicitor who considers the problem. If the problem leads to a court case then the solicitor has to prepare a brief for a barrister. Even if the case does not lead to litigation, the solicitor may require the opinion of a barrister who is specialised in a certain area.

Problems of last-minute changes in decisions by solicitors or barristers would almost completely disappear if fusion were to take place. If only one person was to be your lawyer, then there would be no problem of not having met your barrister before your court case takes place. Because students have to decide at a very early stage which route they would like to follow in the legal system, they may later find they have a talent for doing something that the other profession calls for. If fusion occurred then this problem would no longer exist.

Also, a unified profession would greatly increase the scope for judicial selection. The British Legal System is the only one, which divides its legal profession into two. At the moment your solicitor chooses your barrister, should your case go to court. If fusion takes place then the choice of your lawyer rest entirely with yourself. However, if fusion between the two legal professions were to occur it would mean a loss of expert and specialist skills. Also, barristers are far more easily identifiable than specialists would be in a unified profession.

Another fact is, that two people doing separate things, will do their job better than just one person would. The overall standard of work would drop if fusion took place. It is essential that a defendants case is properly represented in court and if it becomes necessary for you to become a lawyer, rather than a solicitor or barrister, then you my not be able to do the job so well. At least this way, you can choose which profession you want to follow. Another point is that at the moment barristers must stick to the 'Cab-rank' rule. If the professions were to be unified then this principle would be difficult to adhere to.

Critics also argue that it may lead to many top barristers joining large firms of commercial solicitors, making their specialist skills far less obtainable. The smaller firms would not have enough court work to justify a partnership with a barrister. With fusion, there would be no conflict of opinion between the barrister and solicitor. However, there would be loss of many specialist skills and the standard of work would almost certainly drop. As for the costs, there is no reason to believe that the costs would be any less if fusion was to take place. A lawyer may decide to charge as much as a barrister and solicitor put together.

Because they would, after all, be doing the same workload. In return, however, clients can and should expect the same standard of work that they would get from a solicitor and a barrister. But, it must also be remembered that now, many solicitors are expert advocates. So perhaps fusion is the sensible move. If fusion does not take place however, people will not be badly affected. Having two separate professions in the British Legal System is what people in Britain are used to. But if fusion were to occur, then perhaps people would benefit from better service.

But this cannot be guaranteed and there are many people who would prefer to leave the two professions separate as they are, as long as they get good quality service. There has been quite a bit of progression (or regression, some might say) towards fusion of the two legal professions. The division between the two professions dates from the 19th century when the Bar agreed to give all conveyancing work and all direct access to clients to the solicitors, in return for sole rights of audience in the higher courts and the sole rights to become judges for barristers.

However, since the late 1960s, there have been a series of moves towards breaking down the division. In 1969, the Law Society argued for rights of audience in the Crown Court, but the Commission's report (the Beeching Report) recommended that solicitors should only be allowed to advocate in areas where there weren't enough barristers. In 1972, A Practice Direction from the Lord Chancellor's Dept. stated that solicitors could appear in appeals or committals for sentencing from the Magistrates' to the Crown Court where they had appeared for that client in the magistrates' court.

This was a clear move forward[MSOffice1]. However, in 1979, the Law Society, clearly not satisfied, lobbied the Royal Commission on Legal Services for Crown Court rights of audience in either-way offences and they also wanted limited rights in the High Court.


AS Law Dispute Solving Booklet 2, Legal Profession-Marcella Breeze Law, Order and the Judiciary-Peter Joyce A Level and AS Level Law-Martin Hunt AS Law-Bobby Vanstone and Liz Sherratt [MSOffice1]Moves Towards Fusion