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Types of Legal Professions in Great Britain
1. The legal profession is one of the most prestigious and well-paid in Britain. England is almost unique in having two different kinds of lawyers, with separate jobs in the legal system. There are two main branches, those of solicitors and barristers. Each branch has its own characteristic functions and a separate governing body. This system has been criticized in recent years because of the resulting duplication of services, delay in the legal process and its expense.
2. The senior branch of the legal profession in England is barristers, having the right to fight a case in the higher courts. Barristers belong to the Bar, which is an ancient legal institution and which is now controlled by the Bar Council. Barristers (professional advocates) have two main functions: first, to give specialised advice on legal matters and, second, to act as advocates in the higher courts. A barrister must reach the proper educational standard and pass special examinations at the Council of Legal Education. Barristers are self-employed individuals who practise the law from offices. The barrister’s career starts as a "junior" handling minor cases. If the barrister persists and builds up a successful practice as a junior, then he or she may become a Queen’s Counsel (QC) known within the profession as "taking silk"*.
3. There is no hard and fast line between the work of the solicitor and the work of a barrister. In general, however, it is possible to say that solicitors practise mainly in private firms, but also in local and central government, in legal centres, and in industry. Solicitors deal with general legal work, though specialisation in one area of the law is now widespread. Their firms offer a wide range of services, such as buying and selling of property; probate* (wills and succession after death); family matters; criminal and civil litigation; commercial cases; and tax and financial affairs. The solicitors also prepare cases for barristers to present in the higher courts, and may represent their clients in a magistrates’ court.
4. The judges constitute the judiciary, or the third branch of the constitutional system in the UK. There are a relatively small number of judges of various ages, and they are located in most large cities and in the higher courts in London. As there is no separate training for judges in England, they are usually appointed from the ranks of senior barristers. Judges must be independent of the parties to a dispute (this ensures a fair trial). They must be independent of the executive branch. This enables the judges to exercise control over government action. Judges must be free of any political bias*. The judge’s functions are to conduct the proceedings, put questions to the parties and witnesses, examine the documents and evidence and to pass the sentence.
5. There are about 30 000 magistrates (Justices of the Peace or JPs), who judge cases in the lower courts. They are usually unpaid and have no formal legal qualifications, but they are respectable people who are given some training. Clerks of the court look after administrative and legal matters in the courtroom.
Task 3. Find a suitable place in Text B for the passages below.
1. These lawyers specialize in arguing cases in front of a judge and have the right to be heard, the right of audience, even in the highest courts. They are not paid directly by clients, but are employed by solicitors. They work in what are known as chambers often in London and belong to the institutions called Inns of Court, which are ancient organisations rather like exclusive clubs.
2. When a barrister becomes QC he "takes silk". It means that he
can wear silk gown. The appointment as a QC may lead to a future position as a judge, and it is regarded as a necessary career step for the ambitious.
3. In order to become a solicitor, it is now generally necessary to have a university degree, preferably but not essentially in law. After passing additional professional examination organised by the Law Society, the student will serve a practical apprenticeship with an established solicitor for some two years. After the total period of about six years education and training, the new solicitor can practise law.
4. Judges are not themselves the separate profession. They are usually former barristers from the ranks of the Bar. The judge should decide the interpretation of the law.