Overseas clients in particular may appreciate a brief explanation of the difference between barristers and solicitors. A description of the traditional roles of the two branches is a good starting point to understanding how the Bar can serve not only solicitors but also American and foreign lawyers, as well as accountants and other intermediaries in the modern world.
Most people are aware of barristers’ role as trial lawyers. The other traditional role of the barrister is in giving expert opinions on specific areas of law. The Bar is a resource both for small firms of solicitors and for large City firms who need highly specialised advice.
A key element of the success of the traditional relationship between barristers and solicitors has been that practice at the Bar is a “referral profession” – this means that traditionally, whether for courtroom advocacy or expert advice, a barrister is approached by a solicitor (the “professional client”) to act on behalf of the solicitor’s underlying client (the “lay client”). The lay client, who could not instruct (i.e., engage) a barrister directly, remains the solicitor’s client throughout. Because a barrister’s engagement is case specific, he does not compete for business with his professional clients.
Many traditional rules have been relaxed in recent years, and barristers registered for “Public Access” can accept instructions directly from lay clients, although some restrictions remain on who may instruct barristers and for what activities. The Bar’s Written Standards for the Conduct of Professional Work states that:-
“The work which is within the ordinary scope of a barrister’s practice consists of advocacy, drafting pleadings and other legal documents and advising on questions of law. A barrister acts only on the instructions of a professional client, and does not carry out any work by way of the management, administration or general conduct of a lay client’s affairs, nor the management, administration or general conduct of litigation nor the receipt or handling of clients’ money”.
Where a foreign lawyer instructs a barrister on behalf of a lay client, for example, he may do so knowing that his relationship with his lay client remains intact. Also, even though in many cases an individual or corporate client resident abroad may seek advice directly from a barrister, because the barrister may not conduct the lay client’s affairs, the client still has reason to retain other lawyers and intermediaries.
Another important distinction is that barristers in England & Wales do not practise in partnership and may not share their profits, and Three Stone, like all barristers’ chambers, is not a legal entity. When a client instructs a barrister, the engagement is of the individual barrister, who is solely responsible for the work.
In addition to its members, a barristers’ chambers may have “door tenants” who are based elsewhere and work from premises outside the chambers themselves.
Three Stone, like all English barristers’ chambers, is not a legal entity, and has no corporate or collective legal identity of any kind. All barristers practising from chambers are self-employed individuals in independent private practice. By their professional Code of Conduct, barristers are prohibited from practising in partnership, sharing profits or engaging in a joint professional venture.