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Meaning of Lawyer, Advocate, Solicitor, Barrister and more

Updated: Jul 18



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Prof.(Dr.) Priya Sepaha

Director, Law Colloquy,

Author, Trainer, blogger, Youtuber


Introduction

Generally, lawyers, advocates, barrister, solicitors are considered equivalent words, but they are having different meaning, importance, and nature. These terms are used in different countries and have diverse significance moreover.

In India

Lawyer

A lawyer is someone who has completed legal education or graduate in law. A lawyer cannot represent in the court proceedings. A Lawyer is somebody who has been trained in the law he may be legal adviser, consultant, academician, in-house legal counsel or in a corporate firm and he may draft documents such as contracts, deeds or wills, etc.

Advocates

Those lawyers who qualified Bar Council exam as per the Advocates Act, 1961 to practice before Indian Courts are advocates. The role of an Advocate, in contrast, is limited to representing his/her client before court. He is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. He can put a case on someone else's behalf. He is a professional pleader in a court of justice.

As per the definitions of in Advocates Act 1961 -

2(a) “advocate” means an advocate entered in any roll under the provisions of this Act;

2(i) “Legal practitioner” means an advocate or vakil or any High Court, a pleader, mukhtar or revenue agent;

Thus the act also clarifies that a person registered with a State Bar Council on completion of his law degree is known as Advocate.

Advocate on Record

Advocate on Record is an advocate who is entitled under the Order IV of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 (previously Order IV of the Supreme Court of India Rules, 1966), framed under Article 145 of the Constitution, to act as well as to plead for a party in the Supreme Court of India. As per the Rules, no advocate other than an advocate on record shall be entitled to file an appearance or act for a party in the Supreme Court of India. No advocate other than an advocate on record can appear and plead in any matter unless he is instructed by an advocate on record.

If an advocate wants to practice as an advocate-on-record in the Supreme Court he or she needs an additional qualification. The advocate has to practice for 4 years as an advocate and thereafter has to intimate to the Supreme Court that he or she has started taking training with a Senior Advocate on record because he or she intends to become an Advocate-on-record. After the expiry of one year's training, the advocate has to appear for an examination conducted by the Supreme Court itself. After an advocate passes this examination he or she must have a registered office within a radius of 10 miles from the Supreme Court building and a registered clerk. It is after this that the Chamber Judge of the Supreme Court accepts him as an advocate-on-record.

Advocate General

An advocate general is a senior officer of the law. In some common law and hybrid jurisdictions, the officer performs the function of a legal adviser to the government, analogous to Attorneys General in other common law and hybrid jurisdictions.

The Office of the Advocate General is a constitutional office created under Article 165 of the Constitution of India. The Governor of the State appoints a person who is qualified to be appointed as a judge of the High Court as Advocate General of the State.

Attorney General of India

The Attorney General for India is the Indian Government's chief legal adviser and is a primary lawyer in the Supreme Court of India. He is appointed by the President of India under Article 76(1) of the Constitution and holds office during the pleasure of the President. He must be a person qualified to be appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court, also must have been a judge of any High Court for five years or an advocate of any High Court for ten years or an eminent jurist, in the opinion of the President and must be a citizen of India.

The Attorney General gives necessary advice to the Government of India in legal matters referred to him. He also performs other legal duties assigned to him by the President. The Attorney General has the right of audience in all Courts in India as well as the right to participate in the proceedings of the Parliament, though not to vote. The Attorney General appears on behalf of the Government of India in all cases (including suits, appeals, and other proceedings) in the Supreme Court in which the Government of India is concerned. He also represents the Government of India in any reference made by the President to the Supreme Court under Article 143 of the Constitution.

Unlike the Attorney General of the United States, the Attorney General of India does not have any executive authority. Those functions are performed by the Law Minister of India. Also, the AG is not a government servant and is not debarred from private legal practice.

The Attorney General can accept briefs but cannot appear against the Government. He cannot defend an accused in the criminal proceedings and accept the directorship of a company without the permission of the Government.

The Attorney General is assisted by a Solicitor General and four Additional Solicitors General. The Attorney General is to be consulted only in legal matters of real importance and only after the Ministry of Law has been consulted. All references to the Attorney General are made by the Law Ministry.

Solicitor General of India

The Solicitor General of India is subordinate to the Attorney General of India. The Solicitor General of India is the second law officer of the country, assists the Attorney General, and is himself assisted by four Additional Solicitors General for India.

Unlike the Attorney General, Solicitor General does not tender legal advice to the Government of India. His workload is confined to appear in courts on behalf of the union of India.

In Britain

As per British Law, the term Attorney is the general term for all those who are qualified to practice law in Britain, and the term Barrister and Solicitor is the sub-set of the term Attorney.

Attorney

A professional person authorized to practice law, conduct lawsuits, or give legal advice.

Barrister

In Britain and Canada, a lawyer who speaks in the higher courts of law on behalf of either the defence or prosecution. Barristers can be distinguished from a solicitor because they wear a wig and gown in court.

They work at higher levels of court than solicitors and their main role is to act as advocates in legal hearings, which means they stand in court and plead the case on behalf of their clients in front of a judge.

Barristers do not come into contact with the public as much as solicitors. They are given details of a case by a solicitor and then have a certain amount of time to review the evidence and to prepare what they are going to say in court.

Most Barristers are self-employed and work in Chambers with other Barristers so they can share the costs of accommodation and administrators. They can also be employed in-house as advisers by banks, corporations, and solicitors firms.

Solicitor

In Britain, a lawyer who gives legal advice and prepares legal documents. Solicitors drew pleadings or written statements in a case to be filed before the court and performed functions of an attorney for clients.

Solicitors can work for a big range of organizations, including commercial or non-commercial law firms, the government, private businesses, banks, and corporations. They have specialized knowledge of different areas of the law such as family, crime, finance, property, and employment.

Most of the time solicitors advise clients, undertake negotiations, and draft legal documents. It is primarily a desk job but does involve traveling to see clients and representing them in court.

In the past, a solicitor's advocacy work was restricted to magistrates' courts and minor cases in county courts, but now there are a few solicitor advocates who work in higher levels of the court.

Attorney General In England and Wales

Attorney General is one of the Law Officers of the Crown. Along with the subordinate Solicitor General for England and Wales, the Attorney General serves as the chief legal adviser of the Crown and its government in England and Wales.

The Attorney General is a non-cabinet minister who leads the Attorney General's Office. He has the primary role of advising the Government on any legal repercussions of their actions, either orally at meetings or in writing. He advises not only the government as a whole but also advises individual departments. Although the primary role is no longer one of litigation, the Attorney General still represents the Crown and Government in court in some select, particularly important cases and chooses the Treasury Counsel who handles most government legal cases. By convention, he represents the government in every case in front of the International Court of Justice. The Attorney General also superintends the Crown Prosecution Service and appoints its head, the Director of Public Prosecutions. Decisions to prosecute are taken by the Crown Prosecution Service other than in exceptional cases i.e. where the Attorney General's consent is required by statute or in cases relating to national security.

The Attorney General also superintends the Government Legal Department and the Serious Fraud Office. He is responsible for making applications to the court restraining vexatious litigants and may intervene in litigation to represent the interests of charity, or the public interest in certain family law cases. He is also officially the leader of the Bar of England and Wales, although this is merely custom and has no duties or rights attached to it. Since the passing of the Law Officers Act 1997, any duties of the Attorney General can be delegated to the Solicitor General for England and Wales, and his or her actions are treated as coming from the Attorney General. The beginning of the 20th century saw a shift away from litigation and more towards legal advice, and today the Attorney General delegates most cases to the Crown Prosecution Service and Treasury Counsel.

Solicitor General in England & Wales

The Solicitor General is one of the Law Officers of the Crown and the deputy of the Attorney General, whose duty is to advise the Crown and Cabinet on the law. He can exercise the powers of the Attorney General in the Attorney General's absence.

In USA

Solicitor

A solicitor is a qualified person who represents and advises his clients. Can advocate in court (with the due accreditation) and usually specializes in a certain area of law. It is an offence to call yourself a solicitor if you are not one. In the US, a 'lawyer' is a general term for anyone licensed to practice law.

Attorney

An attorney at law in the United States is a practitioner in a court of law who is legally qualified to prosecute and defend actions in such court on the retainer of clients. Alternative terms include counselor and lawyer.

Litigator

A litigator is a specific type of lawyer who tries cases in court, as opposed to a transactional lawyer who might work on contracts and never see the inside of a courtroom. Litigation attorneys, also known as litigators or trial lawyers, represent plaintiffs and defendants in civil lawsuits. They manage all phases of the litigation from the investigation, pleadings, and discovery through the pre-trial, trial, settlement, and appeal processes.

Paralegal

A paralegal is a professional who may or may not be licensed, but who assists a lawyer in their regular duties; they may do research, draft documents, liaise with clients, but cannot give legal advice or represent someone else as their attorney.

United States Solicitor General

The United States Solicitor General is the fourth-highest-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Justice. The United States Solicitor General is the person appointed to represent the federal government of the United States before the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Solicitor General determines the legal position that the United States will take in the Supreme Court. In addition to supervising and conducting cases in which the government is a party, the office of the Solicitor General also files amicus curiae[1] briefs in cases in which the federal government has a significant interest in the legal issue. The office of the Solicitor General argues on behalf of the Government in virtually every case in which the United States is a party and also argues in most of the cases in which the Government has filed an amicus brief. In the federal courts of appeal, the Office of the Solicitor General reviews cases decided against the United States and determines whether the government will seek review in the Supreme Court. The Office of the Solicitor General also reviews cases decided against the United States in the federal district courts and approves every case in which the government files an appeal.

United States Attorney General

The United States Attorney General (A.G.) is the head of the United States Department of Justice as per 28 U.S.C. § 503 is concerned with all legal affairs and is the chief lawyer of the United States Government. In cases of the federal death penalty, the power to seek the death penalty rests with the Attorney General.

Under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, the Attorney General is nominated by the President and appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Constitution provides that civil officers of the United States, which would include the Attorney General, maybe impeached by Congress for treason, bribery, or "high crimes and misdemeanors".

Footnote:

[1] someone, who is not a party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party and who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case; and is typically presented in the form of a brief. The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies within the discretion of the court.

References-

1.https://www.brightknowledge.org/law/what-is-the-difference-between-a-barrister-and-solicitor

2.http://le-mot-juste-en-nglais.typepad.com/le_mot_juste_en_anglais/2010/05/this-article--was-originally-published-in-its-french-version--in-several-languages-the-words--meaning.html

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