(The Legal Profession)
There are basically three constituents in the nation's legal structure comprising England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Although England and Wales are two separate constituents, their legal structure is the same. England and Wales also have the same legal jurisdictions. Scotland's legal scripts are based on the ancient Roman laws. The Scottish parliament can enact and amend legislations on domestic issues, but not on national and external affairs such as defense and economy. (Sarah Carter)
Functionally, the legal profession in the UK is divided into two separate disciplines of barristers and solicitors. In England and Wales, solicitors outnumber barristers eight to one. Solicitors work behind the desk advising and preparing cases for the clients, whereas barristers represent the cases in the courts. Although diverse, the functions of solicitors and barristers are like two sides of the same coin.
The basic qualifications necessary for these two branches are the same. It is only after graduation that those wishing to enter the profession as solicitors have to complete a Legal Practice Course according to the requirement of the Law Society, and those choosing to be barristers have to complete Bar Vocational Course franchised by the General Council of the Bar. Both these courses are of one year duration. (Legal Education in the United Kingdom)
Barristers have the right of audience in the Supreme Court and in all other courts, and they specialize in different area of operations. Some barristers may specialize in concerning criminal law, while others may be experts in civil cases. Even within the criminal and civil divisions, there may be sub-divisions. For instance, one barrister may specialize in homicidal matters and another may practice on issues concerning fraud, etc.
For the ordinary citizen, solicitors are the first point of contact for legal advice and opinion. The solicitors may then advise the litigant on the appropriate barrister who could pursue the case in a court of law.
There is yet one more branch of notaries who are small compared to barristers and solicitors. Notaries are authorized to perform functions such as attestations, authentication, administration of oaths, and other legal roles that are not of the litigious nature.
With the complexity of modern times in social, economic, environment and human rights affairs, together with greater awareness of the general citizenry of the legal opportunities available to them, solicitors and barristers have increasing professional challenges.