Solicitor

Solicitor

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Solicitors are lawyers who traditionally deal with any legal matter including conducting proceedings in courts. In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, a few Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n states and the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

, the legal profession is split between solicitors and barrister
Barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

s (or, in Scotland, advocates), and a lawyer will usually only hold one title. However, in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and most Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n states, the legal profession is now for practical purposes "fused
Fused profession
Fused profession is a term relating to jurisdictions where the legal profession is not divided between barristers and solicitors.It is generally used in the context of Commonwealth countries which have provided by statute for there to be a single profession of "Barrister and Solicitor".In practice,...

", allowing lawyers to hold the title of "barrister and solicitor" and practise as both. The distinction between barristers and solicitors is, however, retained. Some legal graduates will start off as one and then decide to become the other.

England and Wales



Before the unification of the Supreme Court
Courts of England and Wales
Her Majesty's Courts of Justice of England and Wales are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales; they apply the law of England and Wales and are established under Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.The United Kingdom does not have...

 under the Judicature Act 1873, solicitors practised in the Chancery Courts
Court of Chancery
The Court of Chancery was a court of equity in England and Wales that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness of the common law. The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including trusts, land law, the administration of the estates of...

, attorneys practised in the Common Law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 courts and proctor
Proctor
Proctor, a variant of the word procurator, is a person who takes charge of, or acts for, another. The word proctor is frequently used to describe someone who oversees an exam or dormitory.The title is used in England in three principal senses:...

s practised in the Ecclesiastical Courts. After 1873 the titles of "attorney" and "proctor" disappeared as terms relating solely to legally qualified persons, being replaced by "Solicitor of the Supreme Court" in all courts. Since the replacement of the House of Lords with the Supreme Court the full title of a solicitor is now “solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales”.

The term "attorney" is however still used under English law to refer to someone legally appointed or empowered (who may but need not be legally qualified) to act for another person. Currently, the term is most commonly used to refer to someone so appointed under the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005
Mental Capacity Act 2005
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its primary purpose is to provide a legal framework for acting and making decisions on behalf of adults who lack the capacity to make particular decisions for themselves....

 to act in this manner in a Lasting Power of Attorney
Lasting Power of Attorney
Lasting powers of attorney in England and Wales were created under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 of which copies are available online, and came into effect on 1 October 2007. The LPA replaced the former Enduring Powers of Attorney which were narrower in scope...

.

In the English legal system, solicitors traditionally dealt with any legal matter including conducting proceedings in courts although solicitors were required to engage a barrister as advocate in a High Court or above after the profession split in two. Minor criminal cases are tried in Magistrates' Courts, which constitute by far the majority of courts. More serious cases start in the Magistrates Court and may then be transferred to a higher court. The majority of civil cases are tried in county courts and are almost always handled by solicitors. Cases of higher value (£50,000.00 or above) and those of unusual complexity are tried in the High Court, and the advocates in the High Court were until recently barristers engaged by solicitors to assist. Barristers, as the other branch of the English legal profession, have traditionally carried out the functions of advocacy in the High Court and Crown Court and Court of Appeal. However, barristers have now lost this exclusivity and solicitors may now extend their advocacy to such courts. In the past, barristers did not deal with the public directly. This rigid separation no longer applies. Solicitor advocates with extended rights of audience may now act as advocates at all levels of the courts. Conversely, the public may now hire and interact with a barrister directly in certain types of work without having to go to a solicitor first.

Regulatory scheme


Solicitors in England and Wales who wish to practise must pay an annual fee to obtain a Practising Certificate. This fee is paid to the Law Society of England and Wales
Law Society of England and Wales
The Law Society is the professional association that represents the solicitors' profession in England and Wales. It provides services and support to practising and training solicitors as well as serving as a sounding board for law reform. Members of the Society are often consulted when important...

, which represents the profession. The Solicitors Regulation Authority
Solicitors Regulation Authority
The Solicitors Regulation Authority was launched on 29 January 2007. It is the regulatory body for more than 120,000 solicitors in England and Wales...

 though funded by solicitors mandatory annual fees to the Law Society act independently of the Law Society, but together make up the complete system of professional regulation for solicitors. Complaints about solicitors if not satisfactorily resolved by the solicitors' firm may be made to the Legal Ombudsman.

Training and qualifications


The training and qualification required to enter the profession by being admitted as a solicitor is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. There are two graduate routes of entry into the profession. Prospective solicitors holding a qualifying law degree proceed to enrol with the Law Society as a student member and study the Legal Practice Course
Legal Practice Course
The Legal Practice Course also known as the Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practiceis the vocational stage for becoming a solicitor in England and Wales. The course is the successor to Law Society Finals and is more vocational in its syllabus. The LPC can be taken in many different formats including...

. Those holding a non law degree but one which is a "qualifying degree" must in addition completed a conversion course prior to enrolling on the Legal Practice Course
Legal Practice Course
The Legal Practice Course also known as the Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practiceis the vocational stage for becoming a solicitor in England and Wales. The course is the successor to Law Society Finals and is more vocational in its syllabus. The LPC can be taken in many different formats including...

. Once the Legal Practice Course has been completed, the prospective solicitor usually must then undertake two years' apprenticeship, known as a training contract
Training contract
A training contract is a compulsory period of practical training in a law firm for law graduates before they can qualify as a solicitor in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Australia or Hong Kong...

, with a firm entitled to take trainee solicitors. The training contract was formerly known as an articled clerkship.

It is also possible to qualify as a solicitor without having attended university by being admitted as a Member of the Institute of Legal Executives, and thereafter completing the required number of years of practical experience, and studying for the Legal Practice Course.

Recent developments


In England and Wales, the strict separation between the duties of solicitor and barrister has been partially broken down and solicitors frequently appear not only in the lower courts but (subject to passing a test and thereby obtaining Higher Rights of Audience) increasingly in the higher courts, too, (such as the High Court of Justice of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal
Court of Appeal of England and Wales
The Court of Appeal of England and Wales is the second most senior court in the English legal system, with only the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom above it...

). While the independent bar still exists in a largely unchanged state, a few firms of solicitors now employ their own barristers and solicitor advocates to do some of their court work. Barristers, in turn, can now be directly instructed by certain organizations such as trade unions, accountants, and similar groups. Additionally, barristers who have completed the Bar Council's "Public Access" course can take instructions directly from members of the public, although there are some limitations on the type of work that can be done this way: for example, such barristers cannot take control of the conduct of litigation nor can they act in matrimonial matters.

This breakdown in the strict separation between barrister and solicitor is expected to go further in the next few years, with the advent of Legal Disciplinary Practices (on 31 March 2009) and Alternate Business Structures (expected 2011) appearing.

Regulation of both barristers and solicitors was reviewed by David Clementi
David Clementi
Sir David Cecil Clementi is a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. Clementi also holds positions on the boards of several large corporations, including Chairman of Prudential plc, one of Britain's largest insurance companies, and is a non-executive director on the board of governors of...

 on behalf of the Ministry of Justice in 2004. He delivered his final recommendations in December 2004 which included proposals for a more unified regulatory system and new structures for cross-profession work. Many of his recommendations were enshrined in the Legal Services Act 2007
Legal Services Act 2007
The Legal Services Act 2007 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that seeks to liberalise and regulate the market for legal services in England and Wales, to encourage more competition and to provide a new route for consumer complaints...

.

Scotland


Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

's legal system
Scots law
Scots law is the legal system of Scotland. It is considered a hybrid or mixed legal system as it traces its roots to a number of different historical sources. With English law and Northern Irish law it forms the legal system of the United Kingdom; it shares with the two other systems some...

 is separate from those of England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

 and Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

. In Scotland, the legal profession is divided between solicitors and advocates, the distinction being similar to that between solicitors and barrister
Barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

s in England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

, though Scottish solicitors have traditionally represented their clients in the lower courts (such as the Sheriff Court
Sheriff Court
Sheriff courts provide the local court service in Scotland, with each court serving a sheriff court district within a sheriffdom.Sheriff courts deal with a myriad of legal procedures which include:*Solemn and Summary Criminal cases...

 and the District Court
District Courts of Scotland
A District Court was the least authoritative type of criminal court in Scotland. The court operated under summary procedure and dealt primarily with minor criminal offences...

), only being excluded from the High Court of Justiciary
High Court of Justiciary
The High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court of Scotland.The High Court is both a court of first instance and a court of appeal. As a court of first instance, the High Court sits mainly in Parliament House, or in the former Sheriff Court building, in Edinburgh, but also sits from time...

 and the Court of Session
Court of Session
The Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland, and constitutes part of the College of Justice. It sits in Parliament House in Edinburgh and is both a court of first instance and a court of appeal....

. However, under Section 24 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Scotland Act 1990, suitably qualified solicitors were for the first time in Scotland granted rights of audience in the Supreme Courts in Scotland as well as in the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as solicitor advocates.

In Scotland, solicitors are regulated by the Law Society of Scotland
Law Society of Scotland
The Law Society of Scotland is the professional governing body for Scottish solicitors.It promotes excellence among solicitors through representation, support and regulation of its members. It also promotes the interests of the public in relation to the profession...

, which requires prospective solicitors to pass exams in a curriculum set by the Society. Ordinarily, this is done by obtaining a Bachelor of Laws
Bachelor of Laws
The Bachelor of Laws is an undergraduate, or bachelor, degree in law originating in England and offered in most common law countries as the primary law degree...

 (LLB) in Scots law
Scots law
Scots law is the legal system of Scotland. It is considered a hybrid or mixed legal system as it traces its roots to a number of different historical sources. With English law and Northern Irish law it forms the legal system of the United Kingdom; it shares with the two other systems some...

 at a university approved by the Society, though it is also possible to sit the Society's own exams. Prospective solicitors are then required to take the Diploma in Legal Practice
Diploma in Legal Practice
The Diploma in Legal Practice is a Scottish postgraduate qualification required in order to practise law in Scotland, as either a solicitor or an advocate...

 (a one-year course provided by several Scottish universities) and then undertake a two-year traineeship with a law firm before they can qualify as a solicitor. As the Faculty of Advocates
Faculty of Advocates
The Faculty of Advocates is an independent body of lawyers who have been admitted to practise as advocates before the courts of Scotland, especially the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary...

 used to require a M.A.
Master of Arts (Scotland)
A Master of Arts in Scotland can refer to an undergraduate academic degree in humanities and social sciences awarded by the ancient universities of Scotland – the University of St Andrews, the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh, while the University of...

 degree of its candidates, it used to be common to take a five-year combined MA LLB curriculum at the Scottish universities. Those intending to become solicitors who studied law as a first degree were at one time awarded a BL degree.

Prior to the formation of The Law Society of Scotland, solicitors were in most areas organized into a local Faculty of Procurators or Faculty of Procurators and Solicitors. These societies still exist, but their influence has waned. Whereas membership was once required in order to practise law in a particular locality, as long as a solicitor is registered with The Law Society of Scotland this is no longer the case. The local societies are now more likely to provide their members with a well-stocked law library, continuing professional development courses (all solicitors in Scotland are required to complete 20 hours of continuing professional development each year), and lobby on behalf of their members with The Law Society of Scotland and The Scottish Government regarding future legal developments.

In Glasgow, the Royal Faculty of Procurators
Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow
The Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow is a professional body of legal practitioners based in Glasgow and providing services to lawyers in the city and the surrounding area...

 still exists. In Edinburgh, both the Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet (also known as the W.S. Society), whose members refer to themselves as a Writer to the Signet (W.S.), and the Society of Solicitors to the Supreme Courts (S.S.C.) are still in existence. In Aberdeen, solicitors may belong to the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen. Its members are formally referred to as "Advocate in Aberdeen" to distinguish them from regular Scottish advocates.

In the 18th century, Dr. Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

 marked the change in designation of the lawyers in Glasgow with a jibe about their moving from "procuring" (a term which traditionally meant pimping) to "soliciting" (which was and is used as shorthand for prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

). This was a play on the title "Procurator," meaning agent, a word still used in the Scottish courts, particularly when one Scottish solicitor tells a court that he is appearing only as the agent of another solicitor.

Solicitors in Scotland have full rights of audience in the Sheriff Courts throughout Scotland in both criminal and civil cases. They also have rights of audience in the District Courts (the lowest criminal court in Scotland), although these are now being replaced by Justice of the Peace Courts, in which a solicitor also has a full right of audience. When in court, a solicitor will normally wear a suit and tie together with a Scottish bar gown (a form of black robe).

Republic of Ireland


Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 are represented and regulated by the Law Society of Ireland
Law Society of Ireland
The Law Society of Ireland is the educational, representative and regulatory body of the solicitors' profession in the Republic of Ireland...

. It was formally established by Royal Charter in 1852. The legislative basis for its current role is set out in the Solicitors Acts 1954-2002.
In Ireland it is quite possible to become a solicitor without holding a law degree. Indeed a small number of practising solicitors hold no degree whatsoever. Instead individuals sit professional examinations which are set at degree level standard and undertake an intense apprenticeship program. However those who have recently qualified with a law degree would have the advantage over non-degree holders as they would have near expert knowledge in the study of the law and should have little difficulty with the examinations.

Irish independence in 1921 was marked more by continuity with the British legal system than with change. The legal profession has remained divided between barristers (or abhcóidí in Irish) and solicitors (or aturnaetha in Irish). However, there has been some blurring of their respective roles over the years. Notably, under Section 17 of the Courts Act 1971, solicitors were granted a right of audience in all courts, although in practice relatively few solicitors act as advocates for their clients in the Superior Courts.

Australia


Regulation of the profession in Australia varies from state to state. Admission to practice is state-based, although mutual recognition enables a practitioner admitted in any state to practise nationally. In some states, the distinction between barristers and solicitors is nominal and reflects individual preferences and membership of professional associations. In others, at least in a practical sense, the distinction is clear from the type of practice practitioners have, even if they are entitled to practise in the other branch of the profession. Thus, while members of the bar practise only as barristers, a practitioner is admitted as a "barrister and solicitor." Thus, every solicitor is also a barrister, although many prefer to brief counsel rather than appear in courts or tribunals themselves. The trend to a fused profession
Fused profession
Fused profession is a term relating to jurisdictions where the legal profession is not divided between barristers and solicitors.It is generally used in the context of Commonwealth countries which have provided by statute for there to be a single profession of "Barrister and Solicitor".In practice,...

 is similar to that outlined above in England and Wales.

The states of New South Wales and Queensland, however, maintain strongly independent bars, call
Call to the bar
The Call to the Bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party, and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received a "call to the bar"...

 to which requires extra training. In those states, solicitors' rights of audience
Rights of audience
In common law, a right of audience is generally a right of a lawyer to appear and conduct proceedings in court on behalf of their client. In English law, there is a fundamental distinction between barristers, who have a right of audience, and solicitors, who traditionally do not ; there is no such...

 before superior courts are theoretically unlimited, but infrequently exercised in practice. Victoria also has an independent bar but solicitors have full right of audience before all courts.

Hong Kong


Hong Kong has not fully embraced the "fused profession" trend; solicitors are governed by the Law Society of Hong Kong and barristers are governed by the Hong Kong Bar Association
Hong Kong Bar Association
The Hong Kong Bar Association is the professional regulatory body for barristers in Hong Kong, and was founded in 1949. Like other professional bodies, the HKBA has the authority to take disciplinary action to the members who breach the Code of Conduct of the Association...

. A person
Person
A person is a human being, or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes strongly associated with being human , for example in a particular moral or legal context...

 intending to become a solicitor in Hong Kong must have a professional law degree, either LLB or JD or another equivalent degree, and complete the one-year PCLL program. They must also complete a two-year trainee solicitor contract with a law firm. Solicitors enjoy rights of audience in the lower courts, but the rights do not extend to the Hong Kong High Court and the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal; rights of audience in these two higher courts are restricted to barristers. But this tradition may change in the future. Work related to legislating for higher solicitors' rights of audience is being done - including the formation of a working party under the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice of Hong Kong has nodded to the proposal of creating a special scheme, under which a solicitor would be able to gain the status of "solicitor-advocate" along with higher rights of audience.

Canada


In the English-speaking common law jurisdictions of Canada, the profession of barrister and solicitor have been fused; all those called to the bar are lawyers, and admitted as solicitors. While many barristers and solicitors choose to practise within the scope of one or the other traditional disciplines, many others choose a cross-discipline practice. In Quebec, however, like America and modern France, there is no tradition of split professions, though a distinction is sometimes made between an avocat plaidant "trial lawyer" and an avocat-conseil or conseiller juridique "legal consultant".

Japan


In Japan, Shihou-syoshi, the second tier legal profession who are prohibited from giving legal advice but are only allowed to prepare documents on behalf of their clients, describe themselves as Japanese "solicitors". Their attempt to register the word "solicitor" as their trade mark in Japan, however, was thwarted by the Japanese Trade Mark Office rejecting the application on the basis that the word was generic.

United States


Historically, solicitors existed in America, though the term referred to a lawyer who argued cases in a court of equity, as opposed to an attorney who appeared only in courts of law. With the chancery or equity courts disappearing or being subsumed under courts of law, solicitors became obsolete by the late 19th century. In more modern American usage, the term solicitor is understood to refer to government lawyers. For example, the title "solicitor" is still used by town, city, and county lawyers in Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the professional organization for government lawyers is the City Solicitors and Town Counsel Association. On the federal level, departmental solicitors remain in the Department of Labor, Department of the Interior, and the Patent & Trademark Office, and the Solicitor General of the United States is the lawyer appointed to represent the federal government before the United States Supreme Court. In the U.S., "solicitor" is also used synonymously with salesman (with a pejorative connotation roughly equivalent to the British English word tout
Tout
In British English, a tout is any person who solicits business or employment in a persistent and annoying manner...

).

In South Carolina, the position of "Circuit Solicitor" is analogous to that of State's Attorney
State's Attorney
In the United States, the State's Attorney is, most commonly, an elected official who represents the State in criminal prosecutions and is often the chief law enforcement officer of their respective county, circuit...

 or District Attorney
District attorney
In many jurisdictions in the United States, a District Attorney is an elected or appointed government official who represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses. The district attorney is the highest officeholder in the jurisdiction's legal department and supervises a staff of...

 in other jurisdictions.

See also

  • Barrister
    Barrister
    A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

  • Conveyancer
    Conveyancer
    In Commonwealth countries, a conveyancer is a specialist lawyer who specialises in the legal aspects of buying and selling real property, or conveyancing. A conveyancer can also be a solicitor, licensed conveyancer, or a fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives.In the United Kingdom,...

  • Legal executive
    Legal Executive
    Legal executives are trained legal professionals in England & Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong who often specialise in a particular area of law. There is, however, no direct equivalent to a legal executive in Scotland...

  • Licensed conveyancer
    Licensed Conveyancer
    A Licensed Conveyancer is a specialist legal professional in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia or South Africa who has been trained to deal with all aspects of property law.Typically, their tasks might include:...

  • Solicitor General (disambiguation)

External links