Solicitors and barristers: the differences

The legal profession in Victoria is divided into two distinct branches: solicitors and barristers.

In dealing with a legal matter, you will usually have initial contact with a solicitor. Solicitors deal with all types of legal work.

Either a solicitor or a barrister can represent you in court. Barristers’ work mostly involves representing clients in court. Usually a solicitor “briefs” a barrister to appear on your behalf in court. However, a barrister may agree to represent you in court without being briefed by a solicitor for limited types of work (e.g. advice and representation in minor criminal cases).

Before being allowed to practise as a barrister in Victoria, a solicitor must pass an entrance exam. They must then complete a nine-month reading period, during which they also complete a two-month course on advocacy, communication, decision-making, practice development, and ethics and conduct skills. They are supervised by a mentor and a senior mentor during their reading period.


Where the term “lawyer” is used in this chapter, it refers to both barristers and solicitors. Reference to either a “barrister” or a “solicitor” means only that branch of the profession, not all lawyers.