The responsibilities and roles of the different types of legal professions are different from one country to another. They depend on the history and the legal system of each individual country. In some countries the role of a lawyer is divided into two types – lawyers who represent their clients in the high courts, and lawyers who deal with clients but do not discuss cases in the higher courts. This distinction is called a split (divided) profession. In the United Kingdom, for example, there is a difference between the profession of a solicitor and a barrister or advocate. In Italy and France, too, there is a difference between the role of an advocate and a civil law notary. In other countries, there is no distinction. A system with no distinction is called a system with a united or fused profession.
It is important to remember that often the same word for a profession can be used differently depending on the country. Let’s look, for example, at the word: LAWYER. In the United States, the word generally refers to attorneys, that is, a lawyer who is legally qualified to prosecute and defend actions in a court of law. It is never used to refer to patent agents, or paralegals. A patent agent is a person who is a specialist in ‘patents’ or licences for new inventions. A paralegal is someone who has legal qualifications but who is not a lawyer. The U.S. legal system has a united legal profession, which means that it does not make a distinction between lawyers who plead in court, that is defend a client in a trial, and those who do not. In England and Wales, “lawyer” is a general term for different types of law-trained persons. It includes practitioners, or people in the profession, such as barristers (lawyers who work in the high courts), solicitors (who deal with all legal matters outside the courts and in lower courts), legal executives and licensed conveyancers (specialists in property law). The word ‘lawyer’ can also refer to people who work in the legal system but do not represent individual clients, such as judges or court clerks.
In Australia, the word “lawyer” is used to refer to both barristers and solicitors but not to people who do not practise the law.
In Canada, the word “lawyer” differs depending on the province. In the common law provinces, it only refers to individuals who have been called to the bar, that is, a legal professional who is qualified to represent a client in a high court. In India, the term “lawyer” is often commonly used, but the official term is ‘advocate’.