Understanding the different lawyers

Author: Anna Coward
Understanding the different lawyers

Don’t know your barrister from your solicitor, or your paralegal from your legal consultant?

Look no further! With our easy to follow guide, you don’t have to worry about the jargon. Also while you’re here, did you know a lawyer is a general term for people who provide legal services? Think of it as an umbrella with a barrister and a solicitor underneath.


A solicitor is a qualified lawyer (regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA)) responsible for preparing legal documents and for both representing and defending a client’s legal interests. They offer specialist legal advice on contentious (cases which involve resolving disputes between two or more parties, usually in a court) and non-contentious (cases which deal with personal or business legal needs such as selling or buying a house). A solicitor may suggest a way to resolve matters out of court or through mediation, although some cases may only be able to be resolved in court, which is where a barrister usually comes in - see Barrister and Solicitor Advocate below.


Is a solicitor who isn’t a partner, see below. They can also be known as a senior assistant in some firms. Some firms break this down into senior associates and associates, too.


Is a solicitor who isn’t yet an associate but has completed his or her training.


Members of a law firm who have rights of ownership and liability. In some law firms you also get what are known as salaried partners. These are senior solicitors who are held out as partners but they do not have equity (or ownership) in the firm.

Trainee Solicitor 

A person completing their training requirements in a law firm before applying to be a solicitor.

Legal Consultant 

This can mean different things depending on the firm.  In some firms this is a relatively new role, involving people who are often solicitors or former lawyers that can advise people, business and other organisations on legal obligations and issues but are usually unregulated. In other law firms, however, this is a regulated solicitor who is senior (but not a partner) and a specialist in a particular area.  Sometimes partners who wish to plan for retirement become consultants to their firm.

Legal Director 

Again, this role can mean different things in different firms.  Generally it indicates a senior solicitor who is on the path to partnership.  Some firms are limited companies (rather than partnerships) and a legal director is equivalent to a Partner.


A qualified legal professional who offers specialist advice, whilst representing and defending their clients in a court or a tribunal. The main role of a barrister is to act as an advocate in legal hearings or to provide a second opinion in non-contentious matters such as the interpretation of a contract. Barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB). Barristers can be instructed directly but are more usually instructed by a solicitor.

Solicitor Advocate 

Someone who is fully qualified as a solicitor but has gained the same rights of audience as a barrister by obtaining an extra qualification. This allows them to represent their clients in the courts.

QC or Silk 

A Queen’s Counsel barrister who has been recognised for their professional excellence. Their expertise, knowledge and skill in advocacy has been recognised by an independent panel. A QC, is also known colloquially as a silk. In many ways a silk is to barristers what a partner is to solicitors.


A paralegal is not a fully qualified solicitor, but has extensive knowledge of the law and legal matters. Paralegals undertake a wide variety of administrative and legal work. Paralegals are regulated by The Legal Services Board (LSB).  Many paralegals progress on to become legal executives (see below).

Legal Executive 

A lawyer registered by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX).

Licensed Conveyancer 

A lawyer (although not necessarily a solicitor) who advises solely on buying and selling property and is regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers.

Want to find the right lawyer for your business? Book your free 30-minute consultation with one of our advisors by clicking here. We’ll talk through the options and suggest at least two law firms that we think are a good fit for your business. We aren’t paid any commission and you won’t be under any pressure to work with any law firms we put forward.