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On movies and television shows the terms ‘lawyer’, ‘solicitor’, ‘attorney’ and ‘barrister’ are often used interchangeably.  We are often asked by our family law clients whether there is a difference between the terms. In Australia there is a significant difference between their roles and how they can assist you with your family law matter.

A lawyer is any person admitted to the legal profession who can practice as either a solicitor or a barrister. Both are qualified to provide legal advice and represent clients in court. 

A solicitor primarily provides clients with advice, prepares documentation, and conducts legal dealings mostly out of court, such as negotiations and mediation. They are the first port of call when a person requires legal advice. Solicitors can also appear in court. Family law solicitors appear in court frequently, as opposed to commercial solicitors who usually do not appear in court often, if at all. 

A Barrister (often referred to as ‘counsel’) is a specialist who is usually instructed by solicitors rather than directly by the client. They are advocacy experts (experts at appearing in court and arguing the case) and spend most of their time in court and preparing trials. At Cairns Family Law Group we engage barristers, when appropriate, to assist in cases of a complex nature to ensure the best possible outcome for our client’s family law matters. 

‘Attorney’ has a different meaning in the United States to Australia. In the US legal system, ‘attorney’ is short for an attorney at law and there is no distinction between solicitors and barristers. In Australia we don’t use the term attorney to describe lawyers.  

So Harvey Spector, Louis Litt, Rachel Zane – they are all attorneys in US speak, and the equivalent of lawyers to us Aussies. Mike Ross… well, anyone who watches suits will know that he is none of the above!

Our family lawyers are admitted to practice as lawyers in both the Supreme Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia. We are classed as lawyers and/or solicitors. For family law advice tailored to your circumstances, you can book an appointment for an initial consultation online on our website cairnsfamilylawgroup.com.au or by calling our office on 4051 7575.