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Legal professions

Legal practice varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom the legal profession has two branches. Litigation lawyers are called barristers and those who deal with out-of-court courts are called solicitors. A person who needs legal advice, for example, when buying a house, usually goes to see a solicitor. Solicitors may represent their clients in higher courts. However, solicitors often use barristers to represent their clients in higher courts. Barristers are not allowed to deal directly with the public and can only talk to their client if a solicitor is present.

Barristers are called advocates in Scotland, and a solicitor or barrister representing a client in the English or Welsh courts is now often referred to as advocate.

After many years in the court barristers may be appointed as judges. They are highly paid and are sometimes accused of being remote from the rest of society.

The divided system still exists in some Australian states, although in other parts of Australia and in Canada and New Zealand, where it was originally used, the two parts of the profession have now come together, or “fused”.

In the United States there is a single profession. Lawyers are usually known as attorneys and they often specialize in limited areas of law such as criminal, divorce, etc., though many are involved in general practice. People who want to be lawyers go to law school after graduation from college. On completing their studies they must pass the examination of the bar association in the state in which they wish to work before they can practice law. Most American judges, although not all, are practicing attorneys at the time they assume to bench. Most courts have only one judge, but some higher courts have several. The United States has more lawyers than any other country.

The legal profession on every country has its own governing body, which regulates the conduct of its members and governs training and qualifications. In the United States every state has its own bar association. Bar association at the local, state and national levels help unify the legal professions in the United States. Bar associations often govern the conduct of lawyers within the state; otherwise, a state commission or court will consider grievances against lawyers.

In Great Britain barristers must be members of one of the four Inns of Court and solicitor must belong to the Law Society. Complaints system against solicitors and barristers are backed up by the Legal Services Ombudsman for England and Wales, who conducts investigations into the way the professional bodies handle these complaints. There is a separate Ombudsman for Scotland.

Many lawyers do not practice privately but work in the legal department of a large company or other association, or are in government service.


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