Someone commented to me recently that in NSW the only difference between a barrister and a solicitor is that the former wears a wig and a gown while the other dresses like a healthy person might.
In NSW the legal profession is supposedly fused. This means that the traditional distinction between a solicitor and a barrister no longer exists, except that it does, especially in form of dress in court.
Everyone is now admitted as a legal practitioner and thereafter you can practice law as a solicitor and barrister (like the solicitors at Kernaghan and Associates) or you can practice as just a barrister.
Legal practitioners who are solicitors and barristers can, as the name suggests, do all the things that a solicitor and a barrister might otherwise do. A practitioner who works as a barrister only, is limited to the duties and functions of a barrister.
Barristers traditionally conduct litigation in courts on behalf of a solicitor who has briefed him or her for a client. Barristers occasionally provide advice to solicitors concerning aspects of a case involving their client. In such circumstances, it is not unusual for the barrister not to even meet the client.
Solicitors in NSW can appear in any court and regularly conduct all manner of litigation, including defended Local Court hearings and some, as in the case of Kernaghan and Associates, are experienced trial litigators. These solicitors are often referred to informally as “Solicitor Advocates”.
While barristers continue to play a role in NSW, there are some two thousand odd of them (according to the NSW Bar Association website). There are 24,543 solicitors in NSW (according to 2011 Law Society of NSW figures). It is now not uncommon to find barristers not running trials, but spending their days doing lists in the Local Courts of NSW side by side with Solicitors. In those courts you won’t be able to tell them apart (they don’t wear a wig and a gown).