At some time in your life, you may find yourself faced with a legal problem that requires the use of a lawyer to get the best possible outcome. Unfortunately, the process of finding the right lawyer can be a confusing one, especially if you don't know where to start.
Understanding the key differences between the following main categories of lawyers can help point you in the right direction.
Solicitors vs. barristers
While the terms 'solicitor' and 'barrister' are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. In Australia, a solicitor refers to a lawyer that offers legal counsel to clients on one or more areas of the law. They usually do their work outside of the courtroom.
Barristers also provide legal advice to their clients but they spend most of their time appearing in court to plead cases on behalf of their clients. Put simply, they provide legal representation to their clients.
Whether you'll need to use a solicitor or barrister will depend on your specific legal problem. Solicitors are an appropriate choice when you're confronted with legal matters that can be resolved without making a court appearance. If you'll be required to appear in court, then you'll be better off hiring a barrister.
General practitioners vs. specialists
Another factor to consider when you're searching for a lawyer is which area of the law they practice. In terms of practice areas, all lawyers fall into two main categories: generalists and specialists.
Generalists are legal practitioners that do not focus on any specific area of the law. As a result, they can deal with legal issues related to multiple areas of the law.
Specialists, on the other hand, opt to focus on one area of the law only, from family law to commercial law, property law, employment law, personal injury law, and any other specific area of the law.
Civil vs. criminal lawyers
All legal issues fall under two main branches of the law: civil and criminal law. The trial or court processes for civil and criminal cases differ a great deal, with criminal cases generally being considered to be more serious than civil cases. Some examples of criminal cases include:
- Malicious damage to property
- Physical/sexual assault
Criminal cases are prosecuted by the state on behalf of the general public. Those accused of a criminal offence will need to hire a criminal defence lawyer. Civil cases, on the other hand, involve disputes between parties. Some common examples of civil cases include:
- Family law
- Personal injury law
- Workers compensation law
While successful convictions in criminal cases result in a jail term, civil cases only result in financial compensation being awarded to the aggrieved parties.
Need legal help? Contact the team at a local law firm to find out which type of lawyer you need for your specific problem.