Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Barrister Definition:

A lawyer that restricts his or her practice to the court room; a litigation specialist.

Related Terms: Lawyer, Solicitor, Advocate, Attorney, Esquire, Queen's Counsel

A litigation specialist; a lawyer that restricts to, or includes within, his or her practice, the court room and trial, or who makes Court appearances on behalf of his/her clients (such as the fella behind this website).

Also known as a trial lawyer.

In England and some other Commonwealth jurisdictions, a legal distinction is made between barristers and solicitors, the latter with exclusive privileges of advising clients, providing legal advice, and the former with exclusive privileges of appearing in a court on behalf of a client. In other words, solicitors don’t appear in court on a client’s behalf and barristers do not give legal advice to clients.

LawyerThis definition in the Australian Legal Dictionary is indicative of the reality on many Commonwealth, common law jurisdictions:

"Barrister: One who represents another in court.

"Despite (the) entitlement to practice as both a barrister and a solicitor, most lawyers choose to practice as one or the other. Whilst solicitors concentrate on legal matters which can be handled without litigation ... barristers concentrate on writing legal opinions and writing clients in the higher courts in specialised areas of the law."

In England, barristers and solicitors work as a team: the solicitor would typically make the first contact with a client and if the issue cannot be resolved and proceeds to trial, the solicitor would transfer the case to a barrister for the duration of the litigation.

Lawyers in some states, such as Canada, sometimes use the title "barrister and solicitor" even though, contrary to England, there is no restriction on licensed lawyers between the advising and litigating roles.

Canadian lawyers can litigate or give legal advice, as is the case in the USA, where lawyers are referred to as attorneys.

Joseph Addison, writing in The Spectator, 1711, said this of barristers and not without some truth:

"Men that hire out their words and anger; that are more or less passionate according as they are paid for it, and allow their client a quantity of wrath proportionate to the fee which they receive from him."


  • Marantelli, S. E., The Australian Legal Dictionary (Melbourne: Hargreen Publishing, 1981), page 30

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