It is quite obvious that most of us might not have a clear idea about the legal profession. Especially, how to understand the difference between the Lawyer, and Advocate. Similarly, to categorise between solicitor and barrister.
Also it is a fact that, even the legal professionals themselves often get confronted with this specific question from the general public. What is mean by a Lawyer, an Advocate, Solicitor, Barrister, and Attorney.
In Indian context, according to the Oxford Dictionary definition of lawyer is “a person who is trained and qualified to advise people about the law and to represent them in court, and to write legal documents”. Whereas definition of Advocate describes that “A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy” or “A person who pleads on someone else’s behalf” or “A pleader in a court of law; a lawyer”
The basic difference between these definitions reiterate that both the Lawyer and the Advocate practices law, but there is a sea of difference with relation to the word “Advocacy” and “plead” in the court before judge or the bench. The lawyers too could represent their clients in the court, but they may only support the advocacy from the client prospective, but it might not have an objective of “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy”.
In my opinion, one another but a logical explanation could be the advocacy by the advocates in terms of pleading for the constitutional remedy. Advocates plead for the constitutional remedies in the higher courts. Whereas the lawyers contest the cases within the existing legal framework, which might be the only scope of the lawyering, provided they call them lawyer but are enrolled with the bar!
As well as a lawyer could be an expert in any specific given field of law. But with regard to the contesting, pleading, or arguing before the judges requires a special argument skill, which could be the role of an Advocate.
Legally, a lawyer could be a person who has completed the law graduation and well versed with law, he could be a counsel to a company, client, and be an advisor. He could acquire clients and provide advise, but cannot appear in the court unless he becomes an advocate by formally registering and enrolling with the bar, with the bar council of the jurisdiction in which he intends to practice. This explanation may match similar to the UK terms such as the Solicitor and the Barrister.
Though, Lawyer role is similar as Solicitor, and Advocate role is similar as Barrister, in the UK, the legal education and basic foundation courses to become a solicitor or a barrister is completely different then the Indian way of acquiring the legal profession.
In UK and US context, the title and the course of legal professionals completely differ. For example in the US, an attorney-at-law is a member of the legal profession who represents a client in court when pleading or defending a case.The title of attorney applies to any lawyer. But, In the UK, the legal professionals are divided into two. Solicitor and the Barrister .
Barristers represent clients in open court and may appear at the bar. The barristers would not have any communication with the case respondents and petitioners. But only through solicitors. The solicitors represent the clients for case litigation, but cannot plead cases in open court.
In the UK, after the Law degree, to become a barrister, one must do a BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) for one year full time, and further must do a pupillage course of one year. Whereas, the Solicitor goes into different direction. After the Law degree, he must do a LPC (Legal Practice Course) one year full time, and further must do a training contract for 2 years as final stage to become a solicitor.
Barrister or Solicitor, it is a long process to become a certified legal professional. But, UK has flexibility for non-law graduates to become a solicitor or barrister by doing conversion course called the “GDL” Graduate Diploma in Law ( One year). However must follow the same procedures as the law graduate.
It is also important to know that, like the Chartered Accountants Institute, to become a Patent Attorney in the UK, legal professional must get certified through the chartered institute of patent attorneys.
To summarise, though title word lawyer can be a common to any qualified legal professional, further foundation courses, certifications, enrolment with the bar, skills to argue in the court, advocacy skills, and specialisation in specific law differentiates the titles like the lawyer, advocate, solicitor barrister, or attorney at law. Further, based on the title and the individual capacity, skill to convert the client’s legal needs, turns into legal fees!. Happy Lawyering!