Legal Service Providers: who are they?

Published on: 29th October 2019 15:56

Today’s legal service market is experiencing a period of significant change as more and more individuals and businesses look to choose representation from a wide range of legal providers, which are delivering legal advice and services through new and innovative ways. In a market that historically has been resistant to any form of change, competition and the state of the legal market today means that there are increasing pressures on legal service providers, most notably to provide better value for money. We are also seeing providers of legal services that are not regulated by any of the established regulators.

The legal market offers an increasingly broad spectrum of services and legal service providers, and in many cases legal activities are restricted to regulated providers such as solicitors, barristers and licensed conveyancers. In order to provide certain legal services, the provider must be appropriately authorised and regulated, but these regulated areas of law are surprisingly narrow.

When it comes to finding the right legal representation, it can therefore be a mine field trying to choose who will be best for your needs. As a result, many businesses and individuals often don’t get the level of legal help that they need. In fact, research has shown that only one third of people with legal needs actually go on to seek legal advice, with approximately one in ten of those using a solicitor. A big factor in this is a lack of consumer information and knowledge about how legal issues can be resolved.

When it comes to legal representation, there are a number of providers out there who offer their services. They have different names, different regulators, and different standards, and understandably this can cause confusion trying to understand the difference between each provider and which best meets your needs.

We are here to help alleviate this pressure as we seek to further discover and unravel the key differences between legal service providers, who they actually are and how each can be used in certain legal cases.

What do we mean by legal service provider?

A legal service provider is an individual, business or firm who is able to offer legal advice or assistance to those in need for business or personal legal matters. They include solicitors, barristers, licensed conveyancers but also unregulated service providers.

Essentially, they all have the same goal of helping you to overcome your legal challenges – be it corporate, private or domestic. But, each has slightly different functions and roles they play. The main two legal service providers are solicitors and barristers. These are both regulated and as such need to meet certain minimum standards of ability and conduct.

In the UK you may hear people refer to them as lawyers but actually this term does not have an agreed meaning, Although, barristers and solicitors may refer to themselves as lawyers this is just for ease as, thanks to the influence of the USA, people understand, or think they understand, what this means. In fact, it is not defined and anyone can call themselves a lawyer – but only properly qualified solicitors can describe themselves as solicitors and offer their services which are reserved to solicitors. Similarly, only qualified barristers can describe themselves as such.

Here we now seek to discover the key differences, understanding how their roles help with certain aspects of legal representation, which in turn should provide clarification when it comes to choosing the right legal advice.

Solicitor

A solicitor is a type of lawyer and their role in the legal landscape is to provide legal services by way of representation and/or advice directly to clients. These could be private or public businesses or individuals. More often than not, clients seek out solicitors for guidance and advice on how best to manage and deal with certain legal issues that may have arisen – be it business related or otherwise personal cases. This could range from anything from drafting a will, filing for divorce, buying a property or corporate business-related issues such as employment, commercial contracts and data protection.

A solicitor is there to advise on actions that should be taken in order to proceed with the case in question. They will then manage the case through to completion and/or settlement.

Solicitors often deal with both litigation and non-litigation cases – i.e. those cases that need no connection to or dealing with court proceedings such as the legal transfer of property (conveyancing) or the preparation and formalisation of a will for example.

The role and functions of a solicitor include:

  • Provide legal advice and guidance about non-litigation matters including property investment, creation of a will or speeding charges for example.
  • Act as general legal representative in commercial transactions.
  • Provide legal representation and advice in matters that involve third parties, including employer disputes, divorce or even parental custody of children.
  • Offer legal advice when presented with cases that need a defence such as accidents at work.
  • Manage the case throughout to settlement and completion.
  • If a case goes to court, manage all correspondence related to the proceedings and act as the legal representative when dealing with the opposing party.
  • Some cases may require the involvement of a barrister, in which case the solicitor will appoint the most suitable one and brief them on the case and send all relevant correspondence, documentation and information.
  • Whilst not a common occurrence, there may be occasions when solicitors are required to represent their clients in court.

Barrister

Barristers, also referred to as Counsel, work mostly as advocates at higher levels of court and court proceedings. They stand in court and plead the cases on behalf of their clients in front of a judge. You find that many barristers have specialist knowledge and expertise and are often called on to give legal advice when it comes to taking certain cases to court.

Barristers tend to be given the client information from the client’s solicitor and act as legal counsel in court on their behalf. It is rare that barristers have any involvement or contact with clients themselves, but this is changing, and barristers may now do work directly for members of the public and this can be cost effective for consumers. They are often provided with the necessary documentation and details of a case by the solicitor and then review the evidence and prepare for their pleading in court.

The role and functions of a barrister include:

  • Represent clients in instances when cases must go to trial and court proceedings are involved. They will represent the client throughout the trial, speak on their behalf and argue the client’s case before the judge.
  • Give specialised legal advice either in person or in writing to the client and/or their solicitor should one be involved.
  • Act as a negotiator of a settlement for a case instead of taking the case to trial.
  • Draft and offer legal opinions as to whether the client has a strong legal case against a third party with whom the client has the dispute and advise on taking the case to court.
  • Produce and write legal documentation (writs or pleadings) which are then filed within the case.
  • Provide specialist legal advice.

What are the key differences?

Here are a few other key differences that separate the role of a solicitor and a barrister:

  • Barristers are lawyers who specifically specialise in court work and hearings. Seldom do they complete any transactional work such as advising on property or business investments and sales, the preparation of wills, or forming trusts. This is generally the predominant role of a solicitor.
  • Barristers don’t operate or practice in partnership with other legal firms. They may share premises with other barristers which are commonly referred to as barristers’ chambers. However, in some cases barristers may operate their own individual practice separately and independently from others.
  • Solicitors are able to promote and advertise their services to the wider public in order to obtain clients and raise awareness of their legal representation capabilities and services.
  • Barristers tend to receive instruction for court proceedings and actions to take from a client’s solicitor over the client themselves. In these instances, solicitors are referred to as the barrister’s instructing solicitor. Barristers often require a referral from a solicitor to represent a client’s case.

Licensed Conveyancers

Although solicitors can provide all of the services that a licensed conveyancer can provide, the reverse is not true. Licensed conveyancers are entitled to undertake conveyancing – the transfer of legal title in a property from one person to another. As a general rule their charging rates are lower, but not necessarily always the case, and complex legal work will often be undertaken by a solicitor. However, again it can be cost effective for a consumer to use a licensed conveyancer instead of a solicitor.

Unregulated legal service providers

These provide legal services of a nature historically undertaken by solicitors. Currently the most common types of work include will writing and probate administration, divorce, landlord and tenant work, and intellectual property work. Whilst these can be cost competitive it is important to remember that, as they are not regulated, the level of expertise and advice can vary and there is no regulator to help resolve disputes should you have one.

How can FixLegal help?

Here at FixLegal we have access to a wide range of legal representation for you to choose from – be it solicitors, barristers, licensed conveyancers or unregulated legal service providers. Whatever your need or case, we can help you choose and find the right legal representation and assistance and usually on a fixed fee basis. Simply fill in your details here and requirements and we’ll help find you the most suited legal aid for your case.