Similarly to the other professions, the legal profession has established its own hierarchy, language and code of practice, in order to manage the large number of people professing general and specialist legal knowledge. As a result, the workings of the legal profession can appear arcane to the outsider, even despite recent attempts to improve public accessibility to the law.
This chapter provides a short introduction to legal system in the UK, as well as listing a number of sources of information by which the lay person may further access legal information.
STRUCTURE OF THE UK LEGAL SYSTEM
The UK has three distinct legal jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northen Ireland. All of the jurisdictions are common law jurisdictions, but Scotland has a very distinct, separate and interesting legal system that incorporates aspects of the civilian system of law seen in continental Europe.
The legal profession in the UK is split into two branches, solicitors and barristers, whose training, practice and regulation are separate.
Solicitors are the legal equivalent of general practitioners, and are visited first by clients seeking legal advice. Solicitors instruct barristers to provide specialist legal advice and representation (if necessary) in court. Solicitors in England and Wales are regulated by The Law Society of England and Wales. In other countries of the UK they are regulated by the equivalent body.
Barristers play a similar role to that of hospital consultants, acting as a referral service for solicitors.