If you have a legal problem that you need help with, you will generally first seek advice from a solicitor.
Solicitors advise clients on legal matters, prepare legal documents and brief barristers about the details of their clients’ claims so that a barrister can represent their client in court.
Some solicitors represent clients in the Magistrates’ Court or help barristers represent clients in higher courts. A very small number of solicitors act as advocates in the higher courts.
Solicitors can work for themselves, private law firms or for other organisations such as government, community legal centres or Victoria Legal Aid.
Barristers are lawyers who specialise in representing clients in court. Generally, a client will first seek advice from a solicitor who then briefs a barrister if the matter is to go to court or if specialist advice is required.
The most skilled barristers are recognised by the mark of distinction of Queen’s Counsel (QC) or Senior Counsel (SC). QCs and SCs are also known as silks.
Solicitors and barristers have their own professional associations.
Law Institute of Victoria
The Law Institute of Victoria is the state’s peak body for lawyers. The Law Institute of Victoria’s purpose is to be a leader and innovator of the legal profession, to support and inform members, and to raise the profile and standing of the legal profession.
The Law Institute of Victoria’s Find Your Lawyer Referral Service assists the public to find a law firm to assist them with their legal issue. You can visit the Find a Lawyer page on their website or call (03) 9607 9550.
The Victorian Bar is the professional association for barristers. Barristers are specialist advocates who advise and represent litigants in courts, tribunals, mediations and arbitrations.
Finding a barrister
Victorian barristers’ details can be found on the Victorian Bar website.
A barristers’ clerk acts like an agent for barristers. They are familiar with the skills, expertise, experience and availability of the barristers on their list, and can liaise with solicitors and clients to identify the best person to be the barrister in each case. Barristers can also be briefed directly for certain matters via the Barrister Connect website.
Regulating the profession
Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner
The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner are responsible for regulating all lawyers in Victoria. They are independent of the government and the legal profession.
Victoria is part of the ‘Legal Profession Uniform Law’ scheme, which also covers NSW and ensures that lawyers in both states comply with the same rules.
Victorian Legal Services Board
The Board is responsible for regulating all lawyers in Victoria and works closely with the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar as the legal profession’s representative bodies. The Board also has a consumer protection role by licensing all lawyers to practise in Victoria and undertaking compliance and enforcement activities. The Board publishes information to help the public find out if a person is a registered lawyer, or whether a lawyer has been found guilty of a misconduct offence.
Victorian Legal Services Commissioner
The Commissioner handles complaints about lawyers registered in Victoria. These complaints can be about a lawyer’s professional behaviour, the quality of service they have provided or about the costs they have charged. The Commissioner also educates lawyers about professional responsibility, as well as educating the public about what they can expect when they deal with lawyers.