The English legal system comprises of two different branches, barristers and solicitors.

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The English legal system comprises of two different branches, barristers and solicitors.  

In the UK at the moment there are around 9,000 barristers and they are known collectively as the ‘Bar’.  The governing body for barristers is the Bar Council, which acts as a kind of trade union, safe guarding the interests of barristers and regulating barristers training and activities.  All barristers belong to one of the 4 Inns – Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Grays Inn or Lincolns Inn.  There are no significant differences between any of the Inns.

The majority of barristers work in private practices and they work as individuals.  Barristers aren’t allowed to form formal partnerships and they usually work from sets of ‘chambers’ in which a number of barristers are supported by a clerk or clerks.  Although barristers are individuals, within their chambers they operate under the ‘cab-rank rule’.  This means that the barristers must accept any case within their area of competence, providing a proper fee is offered.  This rule ensures proper representation for everyone.

The work of a barrister in a private practice is generally divided between the preparation of opinions, the drafting of pleadings and the presentation of cases in court and most barristers specialise either broadly, like in Common Law, Family or Chancery work or they specialise narrowly like in Criminal Law, taxation, libel, administrative law, intellectual property or admiralty work.  Although barristers generally do not deal with the public, they do offer advice on legal matters to other professionals such as accountants.

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There are also employed barristers who work full time for a particular employer such as large companies, a local authority, the civil service or the Crown Prosecution Service.  Employed barristers are at the moment mainly concerned with preparatory work and giving advice, rather than with representing cases in court.  The Access to Justice Act 1999 does however allow them to appear in court if they so choose.  Barristers have rights of audience in any court and they will usually be engaged by a solicitor on behalf of a client.

There are currently over 100,000 solicitors in the UK.  The governing body for ...

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