Solicitors have limited rights of audience before the courts (e.g. they are not allowed to represent their clients to cross-examine witnesses in the High Court or to give oral submissions in the Court of Final Appeal; they will soon be allowed to conduct trials in the High Court after the Law Society has finalized the ground rules). For litigation, solicitors can either (i) represent clients in court hearings or (ii) take instructions from clients and then instruct barristers to represent clients in court (this is an essential procedure if the cases are heard at the High Court or the Court of Final Appeal). Other than litigation, solicitors can also handle documentation files such as the drafting of contracts, preparing the property sale & purchase agreements or wills, etc. They can also act as legal advisors for their clients.
Barristers are often referred to as “counsel”. Barristers have unlimited rights of audience in all courts (including the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal). They specialize in litigation and giving oral submission in court hearings on behalf of their clients. Similar to solicitors, barristers can also draft legal documents or give legal advice to their clients.
When a barrister has attained a substantial level of accomplishment and recognition and has been in practice for at least 10 years, he or she can apply to become a Senior Counsel. The expertise of a Senior Counsel is usually sought in the more complex cases.