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Rain Check Magazine


The different legal people and what they do

  • Written by News Company

For many people the idea of law and lawyers is based on television shows like Suits or LA Law, or perhaps on books by the likes of thriller writer John Grisham. It is a glamorous and fast paced world of courtroom excitement, love and big money deals. The truth is very different however, and typically it is a rather dull affair of ties and jackets and paperwork. And more paperwork. And it is also quite specialised, with lots of different areas of expertise. Lawyer is actually a catch-all phrase that describes many specialist areas. To help paint a slightly clearer picture here is some insight into the different types of lawyers out there.


Lawyers are people who deal with the law and very often with the paperwork side of things. Even within the category of lawyers you get plenty of sub-specialities. There are patent lawyers and maritime lawyers and commercial lawyers to name just a few. Another type of lawyer who most people will come into contact with at some point in their lives, is the lawyer who specialises in wills and estates. If your parent has passed on and you need to wind up the estate, a good place to start would be online with a search for something like ‘probate lawyers Melbourne CBD’. That should set you on the right track quickly.


All attorneys are lawyers but not all lawyers are attorneys. While a lawyer is somebody who gives legal advice, an attorney is a lawyer who represents a person in court.


An advocate is also known as a solicitor or a barrister. They are lawyers with superior qualifications, often entitling them to appear in higher courts. In some countries a lawyer will hire an advocate to appear on the client’s behalf in high court. Curiously, as if to complicate matters, in some countries the word ‘advocate’ is a title given to lawyers as an honorific. In the same way that doctors or dentists lose the mister in front of their name and have it replaced with Doctor, so lawyers are allowed to have Advocate in front of their name. But this is not a rule that applies in all countries.


Most people know what a judge is as the role that they play in courtroom drama’s and on television is well documented. Judges can be elected or appointed, depending or which country they are in or on what role they are fulfilling. But they are typically a person with a legal qualification who has worked there way through the system and come out at the top.


A magistrate is like a judge in that they administer law and run courtroom proceedings. But unlike a judge an advocate is a civilian and not a qualified lawyer. As a rule, a magistrate’s court is a lower court than a high court and, as mentioned earlier, any lawyer is typically able to argue a case in a magistrate’s court while only an advocate can appear in the high court – which is presided over by a judge. The size of fines and sentences that can be meted out in magistrates court are also lower than in high court.

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