When an individual needs legal assistance, they often get confused about the terms which are applied to the legal professionals who they may need to turn to. They are not sure if they should go to a lawyer, a solicitor, a barrister or a paralegal. These are all professionals in their own respective rights
A lawyer is a broad term which is used to describe either solicitors or barristers and any legal executives. In the US, there is a difference between solicitors and barristers. However, in the USA, for example, these are referred to as lawyers as a general term.
The solicitor is the one who most people will commonly come in contact with when they have a legal need. This is the professional within the law who can give legal counsel to their clients. They also act on their behalf in a court of law. There are many different categories of solicitors.
Barristers are mostly known for the representation before the courts. They usually specialise in one area of law. They are governed by the Barristers Association in the region where they are practising. Most often, solicitors will rely on barristers for their area of expertise. The solicitors will gain greater legal advice from the barristers.
In the past, it was the solicitors who would always have direct contact with the client. His overall scope would be to prepare for the case at hand. Generally, the solicitor would take the case before the court. However, if there was something special about the situation, they would rely on a barrister to assist them. Laws have recently changed, whereby barristers can now have direct contact with the clients as well.
For those who need legal advice, they would start by finding a solicitor of their choice. Within the legal profession, there are also the paralegals, who can do some restricted legal services, instead of using a solicitor.