Being an American, the whole barrister-solicitor concept took (still is taking) some time to grasp. Below are some general characteristics of barristers and solicitors:
- Barristers have rights of audience (or the ability to speak in court), solicitors do not (with some exceptions);
- Only solicitors may “solicit” clients, and then hire counsel (barristers) to do all the talking should the case get to that stage, but barristers cannot;
- Barristers (except in the UK for the time being) cannot join law firms, but instead share overhead costs with other barristers in chambers;
- Barristers wear wigs made of horse hair; solicitors (thankfully) do not!
Really I’d say both barristers and solicitors are lawyers, just different. They both are generally required to take the PCLL in Hong Kong, and study the same subjects, take the same exams, but when it comes to the trainee period, barristers only do one year, whereas solicitors do two. Either may convert to the other at any time, but barristers need not take another exam, just organize motion papers for admission as a solicitor, whereas solicitors need to take another year! That’s rather counter-intuitive!
AND here’s the winner — in Hong Kong, a a barrister is called “大律師”, or “big lawyer”, whereas a solicitor is known as a “律師”, or what I’d like to say “regular-sized lawyer”!