What is the Difference Between a Lawyer, Solicitor and Barrister?

  • Beyond the Pacific
  • September 13, 2016

As a law student, I am asked all sorts of interesting questions from those around me about legal issues, terms and legislation. One of the most common questions I get asked is,

“What is the difference between a Lawyer, a Solicitor and a Barrister?”

If you have wondered the same about who does what in the Australian legal profession, then read on for more. I’ve compiled the roles within the Queensland jurisdiction from my own research and education.

 Law Student

A degree in either Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or Juris Doctor (JD) is the beginning phase of a career in the legal profession.

The LLB program takes about 3-4 years to complete, whilst a JD course, undertaken by those who have previously completed a Bachelor’s degree in another discipline, takes 2-3 years.


In between graduating with a Bachelor of Laws or Juris Doctor degree and practicing as a Lawyer, a student must complete a Practical Legal Training course.

With the assistance of the Legal Practitioners Admissions Board, the Supreme Court of Queensland is responsible for the admission of lawyers in Queensland.

A person is deemed to be a lawyer once they are qualified to practice law. In Australia, a lawyer embraces a variety of roles such as solicitor, barrister, judge, magistrate, private practitioner and teachers of law.

Legal Practitioner

A legal practitioner is a lawyer who has acquired a Practicing Certificate from the Queensland Law Society. Legal practitioners can work for a law firm in private practice as a solicitor or as a barrister.


A solicitor is a legal practitioner who gives advice to clients, drafts documents, writes legal letters, gathers evidence and prepares cases for court. Solicitors may also draft your will, write your lease or settle any marriage disputes. Firms are partnerships formed by solicitors.


To become a barrister, further study is required such as the Bar Practice Course to join the Queensland Bar Association, which is the governing body for barristers. Barristers don’t form partnerships like solicitors but work alone in chambers.

A barrister is a legal practitioner who advocates in the courtroom and speaks on behalf of their client. They deal with complex matters before the court and are assisted by solicitors who prepare witnesses, draft and file documents.


NOTE: Queensland still has a “separate bar” where a lawyer cannot practice as both a solicitor and barrister. All other states and territories have a “fused” profession where a lawyer can be both a solicitor and barrister.

“Lord, grant that I may be able in argument, accurate in analysis, strict in study, candid with clients and honest with adversaries. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my client’s plaints. Read with me in my library and stand beside me in court. So that today I shall not, in order to win a point, lose my soul!” – The Lawyer’s Prayer by St. Thomas More.

Disclaimer: The content within is general or publicly available information only. Seek advice on your specific circumstance to find out more about the legal profession.

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1 Comment

  1. Gladys Altuney

    November 21, 2019

    Excellent article. Simple to read and understand, well done Miriam.

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