If someone is accused of committing a crime and find themselves in the criminal justice system they will come across legal professionals including barristers and solicitors.
Solicitors mainly deal with the client face-to-face, represent the client at a police station after they have been arrested, gather and collate evidence to help the defence case and conduct litigation as the case is prepared for trial. Traditionally a solicitor would instruct a barrister to represent their client at the trial, although often solicitors are qualified to and do act for clients instead of a barrister.
Barristers mainly receive instructions from the solicitor about the client’s case and then prepare to represent the client in court when they give live evidence. Criminal barristers almost exclusively work in court, either prosecuting or defending criminal trials. They specialise in oral advocacy, in arguing their client’s case or presenting the case on behalf of the Crown. When not in court they are busy preparing their next trial, having conferences with clients and advising on the law.
Most of a criminal barrister’s working life is spent in court. Most criminal barristers are self-employed, and work independently from a shared office called a set of “chambers”. A criminal barrister builds a reputation from conducting cases. They are also promoted by their chambers and work is distributed between members of chambers by clerks.
Not all barristers are self-employed. Barristersmay be employed by a firm of solicitors, or be employed in house and work for an organisation such as the Crown Prosecution Service or the Serious Fraud Office.
Some barristers specialise in particular kinds of work within crime, such as high-level fraud, organised crime, counter-terrorism, sex offences, while others maintain a more general practice.