Klarissa Jeiel: Where Law Meets Design

Litigator vs. Barrister vs. Solicitor

Ever wondered what the difference is between a litigator vs. a barrister vs. a solicitor? This article goes over what each of these terms mean!

One of the most common questions you might come across in law school is whether you know if you want to be a litigator vs. barrister vs. solicitor. But what do these terms mean? For some of us, especially those who are the first in our family to go to law school, these terms may be new. And it can be intimidating to ask when other people seem to just know and assume that you do too.

Simply put, these terms describe different types of lawyers. Let’s go through each of them below.

Looking for the difference between a lawyer and a litigator? Check out this article instead: What is the Difference Between a Lawyer and a Litigator?


This is the type of lawyer that goes to court. Litigators are the ones you mostly see on TV. They “litigate” matters i.e. they go to court to argue a case in front of a judge.

Of course, litigators do more than just appear in court. They also do work in preparation for a trial e.g. prepare witnesses to take the stand, meet with clients, go through disclosure, etc.


A barrister is essentially the same thing as a litigator. It’s just another term for it that’s more often used in some places like Britain.


A solicitor is a lawyer that does everything outside of the courtroom. Solicitors are also often referred to as transactional lawyers. They conduct real estate transactions, engage in negotiations, provide clients with legal advice, draft legal documents (wills, contracts, legal memos, client letters, etc.), and more. Because of the nature of their work, solicitors mostly deal with corporate commercial matters.

Most law firms, especially if they’re big enough have separate sections or floors for the different types of lawyers. They might have one floor for all the solicitors and another floor for all the litigators.

Articling programs are also often designed with some kind of formal rotation so that you spend six months in a solicitor rotation and another six months in a litigation rotation.

Related: What is an Articling Student in Alberta?

This is to expose students to both areas and provide them with a breadth of experience. At some firms, students are asked to join a specific rotation group at the end of their articling year so hopefully, you’ll know what type of lawyer you want to be by then. But it’s okay if that’s not the case. There are also firms out there that are open to having junior associates who maintain a general practice.

Plus, there are some (senior) lawyers who do both solicitor and litigator work. These types of lawyers are sometimes called “solicigators” (but I don’t think that’s an actual term). So it’s certainly possible to do both!

The next time someone asks you if you want to be a litigator vs. barrister vs. solicitor, even if you don’t quite know the answer to the question, at least you’ll know what they mean!