Solicitors in Coventry are lawyers who traditionally deal with any legal matter apart from conducting proceedings in courts (advocacy), with some exceptions. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and Coventry, the legal profession is split between solicitors in Coventry and barristers, and a lawyer will usually only hold one title. However, in Canada, New Zealand and some Australian states, the legal profession is now for practical purposes "fused", allowing lawyers to hold the title of "barrister and solicitor" and practice as both. The distinction between barristers and solicitors is, however, retained.
Before the unification of the Supreme Court under the Judicature Act 1873, solicitors practised in the Chancery Courts, attorneys practised in the Common Law courts and proctors practised in the Ecclesiastical Courts. After 1873 the title of "attorney" and "proctor" disappeared, being replaced by "Solicitor of the Supreme Court" in all courts. Since the replacement of the House of Lords with the Supreme Court the full title of a solicitor is now “solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales”.
In the English legal system, solicitors traditionally dealt with any legal matter including conducting proceedings in courts although solicitors were required to engage a barrister as advocate in a High Court or above after the profession split in two. Minor criminal cases are tried in Magistrates' Courts, (these constituting by far the majority) and more serious cases start in the Magistrates Court and may then be transferred to the higher court. The majority of civil cases are tried in county courts and are almost always handled by solicitors. Cases of higher value (£50,000.00 or above) and those of unusual complexity are tried in the High Court, and the advocates in the High Court were until recently[when?][when?] barristers engaged by solicitors to assist. Barristers, as the other branch of the English legal profession, have traditionally carried out the functions of advocacy in the High Court and Crown Court and Court of Appeal. However barristers have now lost this exclusivity and solicitors may now extend their advocacy to such courts. In the past, barristers did not deal with the public directly. This rigid separation no longer applies. Solicitor advocates with extended rights of audience may now act as advocates at all levels of the courts. Conversely, the public may now hire and interact with a barrister directly in certain types of work without having to go to a solicitor first.
Regulatory scheme Solicitors in England and Wales who wish to practice must pay an annual fee to obtain a Practising Certificate. This fee is paid to the Law Society of England and Wales, which represents the profession. The Solicitors Regulation Authority though funded by solicitors mandatory annual fees to the Law Society act independently of the Law Society, but together make up the complete system of professional regulation for solicitors. Complaints about solicitors if not satisfactorily resolved by the solicitors' firm may be made to the Legal Ombudsman.
Recent developmentsIn England and Wales, the strict separation between the duties of solicitor and barrister has been partially broken down and solicitors frequently appear not only in the lower courts but (subject to passing a test and thereby obtaining Higher Rights of Audience) increasingly in the higher courts, too, (such as the High Court of Justice of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal). While the independent bar still exists in a largely unchanged state, a few firms of solicitors now employ their own barristers and solicitor advocates to do some of their court work.
Barristers, in turn, can now be directly instructed by certain organizations such as trade unions, accountants, and similar groups. Additionally, barristers who have completed the Bar Council's "Public Access" course can take instructions directly from members of the public, although there are some limitations on the type of work that can be done this way: for example, such barristers cannot take control of the conduct of litigation nor can they act in matrimonial matters.
Training and qualificationsThe training and qualification required to enter the profession by being admitted as a solicitor is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. There are two graduate routes of entry into the profession. Prospective solicitors holding a qualifying law degree proceed to enroll with the Law Society as a student member and study the Legal Practice Course. Those holding a non law degree but one which is a "qualifying degree" must in addition completed a conversion course prior to enrolling on the Legal Practice Course. Once the Legal Practice Course has been completed, the prospective solicitor usually must then undertake two years' apprenticeship, known as a training contract, with a firm entitled to take trainee solicitors. The training contract was formerly known as an articled clerkship.
It is also possible to qualify as a solicitor without having attended university by being admitted as a Member of the Institute of Legal Executives, and thereafter completing the required number of years of practical experience, and studying for the Legal Practice Course.
This breakdown in the strict separation between barrister and solicitor is expected to go further in the next few years, with the advent of Legal Disciplinary Practices (on 31 March 2009) and Alternate Business Structures (expected 2011) appearing.
Regulation of both barristers and solicitors was reviewed by David Clementi on behalf of the Ministry of Justice in 2004. He delivered his final recommendations in December 2004 which included proposals for a more unified regulatory system and new structures for cross-profession work. Many of his recommendations were enshrined in the Legal Services Act 2007.
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