I've tried to understand the difference between solicitor and lawyer based on Cambridge dictionary, but it is not clear to me. What is the difference between them?

In the mentioned dictionary it's written:

Solicitor: a type of lawyer in Britain and Australia who is trained to prepare cases and give advice on legal subjects and can represent people in lower courts:

Based on my knowledge it is exactly what's the typical lawyer does. Isn't it?


2 Answers 2


The difference is simply location. In the UK, New Zealand and Australia, there are two types of legal professionals, solicitors and barristers. More about the difference between these. Both of these are types of lawyers.

In the US, there is no distinction. All legal professionals with a particular degree are called lawyers (or attorneys). A lawyer will often specialize in a particular area of the law, but the underlying degree and title remain the same regardless of specialization. For example, attorneys who plead cases before the Supreme Court are still called "lawyers".

(Edit) Apparently Canada also has barristers and solicitors, but some lawyers are both. Also, lawyers call themselves litigators rather than barristers. More information


In British English a lawyer is a more general term representing a person trained in the law (in a formal way, enabling them to represent someone in a court, prepare legal documents or provide legal advises).

The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary provides this lawyer definition:

a person who is trained and qualified to advise people about the law and to represent them in court, and to write legal documents

Under the link there's also a detailed explanation of all related terms so it's the best first resource to check.

A solicitor is a specialised kind of a lawyer. Their responsibility is narrowed to documents preparation, advisory and limited representation in courts. They are not entitled to speak in most cases in the court of law, e.g. they cannot defend in criminal cases.

This is the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary definition of a solicitor:

a lawyer who prepares legal documents, for example for the sale of land or buildings, advises people on legal matters, and can speak for them in some courts of law

A lawyer who is eligible to speak in the court of law is called a barrister on an advocate depending on a region. Usually an advocate refer to a barrister who defend the case but in Scotland it's a replacement of the barrister term.

A barrister definition:

a lawyer in Britain who has the right to argue cases in the higher courts of law

An advocate definition:

  • a person who defends somebody in court
  • (in Scotland) a lawyer who has the right to argue cases in higher courts

More on the topic in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

And a comparison of the solicitor and barrister roles.

In American English there is no separate role of a solicitor. A British barrister role is called counsel.

Check more in Oxford Advanced American Dictionary's lawyer definition. Make sure to expand the "More About" section.

  • Does that mean that the word solicitor is not in use in the USA or in the USA it is just a synonym for a lawyer? Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 21:52
  • I'm not an American native so I can base my answer on official sources only. According to the dictionary it's a kind of a salesperson or the most senior legal officer of a town, city or department. Check the AmE definition of a solicitor noun: oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/american_english/…
    – Ister
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 9:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .