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Fundamental Difference between Lawyer, Advocate, Barrister and many more


“The Legal Profession is a business with a tremendous collection of egos. Few people who are not strong egotistically gravitate to it.”     —– F. Lee Bailey

Surviving in a legal profession is not at all an easy task, with every upcoming day it’s becoming tougher and tougher. A small mistake and you are on your knees and witnessing a wicked face of a lost battle

In layman’s language, there seems no difference between these commonly used terms i.e. Lawyer, Advocate, Barrister, Attorney, Prosecutor, Pleader, Solicitor and many others. But in legal world, it becomes quite important to understand the meaning of these different terms and fundamental differences between them. This small piece of writing tries to explain each commonly used term in a very simple language. These are,

  • Lawyer
  • Barrister
  • Advocate
  • Sr. Advocate
  • Advocate on Record
  • Advocate General
  • Attorney General
  • Solicitor General
  • Government Pleader
  • Public Prosecutor

Lawyer: The word “Lawyer” refers to those individuals who are law graduates and have a degree of law.  It means anyone who has completed 3 years of LLB Course or 5 years LLB Course (Integrated Degree) is a lawyer. They are free to give legal advice to their clients but are constrained from representing their clients in the Court of Law. They somehow lack experience in comparison to other and hence charge less. The term Lawyer covers a very wide ambit of legal profession. This term is generally used to designate anyone in a legal profession be it a Solicitor, Barrister, and Attorneys.

Law Graduate = Lawyer

Barrister: A barrister is almost similar to a Lawyer. As in the case of a lawyer the individual is required to complete his/her graduation in law similar is with Barrister too. The only difference that lies between is the place from where an individual is graduated. A barrister is that individual who has completed his/her law degree from United Kingdom (UK).  As like Lawyers, Barrister can also not represent his/her clients in the court of law. The only thing which they are entitled to do is to give legal advice to their clients.

Law Graduate from UK = Barrister

Advocate: An advocate is a Lawyer who is enrolled in Bar Council. Suppose, you had earned your law degree then you need to sit in Bar Council of India exam and pass it. After passing that examination you need to enroll in Bar Council then you will be getting a license to practice in a court. Congratulations! You are promoted from Lawyer to Advocate.

       Unlike a Lawyer, an Advocate is eligible for representing his/her clients in a Court of law. This is a basic difference between a lawyer and an advocate, the lawyer only has his/her hard-earned law degree whereas an advocate also has eligibility for representing his/her clients in a court of law/ apart from a hard-earned law degree. It means every advocate is a lawyer but every lawyer is not an advocate.   

Law Graduate + Enrollment in Bar Council = Advocate

Senior Advocate: The designation of “Senior Advocate” is given either by the Supreme Court or the High Court of any State. They have generally very high experience in a bar and are well qualified. The number of favored judgments also matters. As soon as an Advocate is designated as Senior Advocate his/her dressing sense completely changes. They are required to wear Gowns that have flaps on the shoulders. However, Senior Advocate cannot file a Vakalatnama or appear in a court alone, for this he requires another advocate (in case of High Court) or advocate on record (in case of Supreme Court).

Advocate on Record: In the Apex Court, only Advocate on Record is entitled to file a vakalatnama, a petition, an affidavit or any other application on the behalf of any party. It is to be kept in mind that a case can be drafted by anyone else and the same can be argued by anyone but for filing a case it’s an Advocate on record who is only entitled in Supreme Court. In order to become an Advocate on record, one has to pass Supreme Court (SC) Advocate on Record (AOR) Examination. As far as eligibility of AOR Exam is concerned, an individual must have at least five years of experience those five years include Four years of practice followed by One year of training with an Advocate on Record who has at least ten years of experience.

Advocate General: Advocate General is regarded as a first law officer of the State. Advocate General is appointed by the Governor of the State. They basically represent State government in every matter where State government is a party to a case. Additionally, when the state government requires any legal advice, it is an advocate general who is consulted at the earliest. Hence, Advocate General is also a legal adviser to the State.     

Attorney General: Attorney General is regarded as a first Law officer of the Country. Attorney General is appointed by the President of the Country on the advice of the Union Cabinet under the provisions of Article 76 of the Indian Constitution. As the advocate General represents the State Government, similarly Attorney General represents the Central Government. In the matters where Central Government requires any legal advice, it is an Attorney General to whom the Central Government reaches out first. Hence, Attorney General is also a legal advisor to the State. Presently, K.K. Venugopal holds this office.

Solicitor General: Solicitor General is regarded as a second law officer of the Country. His/her main work is to assists Attorney General (First Law officer of the Country).  In short we can say that Solicitor General is Subordinate to the Attorney General. As like Attorney General, Solicitor General is also appointed by the President of India. Currently, Tushar Mehta holds the office of Solicitor General of India.

Government Pleader: According to Section 2(7) of Code of Civil Procedure 1908, “ “Government Pleader”, includes any officer appointed by the State Government to perform all or any of the functions expressly imposed by this Code on the Government Pleader and also any pleader acting under the directions of the Government Pleader.” In short, when an advocate represents State in Civil Cases then that Advocate is called as Government Pleader.

Public Prosecutor: Our Criminal System says that when a crime is committed against an individual then it will be assumed that a crime is committed against society at a large. Just suppose X commits a crime against Y, now Y will file a case against X but the case for Y will be fought by State as the crime has been committed against the State. So an Advocate representing Y in the case is a Public Prosecutor. In simple words, when an Advocate represents victim through State then that Advocate is called Public Prosecutor. These are some commonly used terms in our legal world

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Author: Dheeraj Diwakar

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