Unit 4. Control English

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Although the United Kingdom shares one government, it has - several legal systems. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland have separate laws, judiciaries and legal professions to those in England and Wales.
Within England and Wales the legal profession is divided into two main branches: solicitors and barristers. Solicitors make up the majority of all lawyers in the United Kingdom. They are the principal advisers on all matters of law to the public and undertake most litigation in the courts. It is through solicitors that most foreign clients receive legal service.
An Independent Legal Profession
Solicitors are members of an independent legal profession. There are over 79.000 practising solicitors in England and Wales, all of whom have met high standards of education and training, and must abide by strict codes of conduct laid down by their professional body, the Law Society.
The role of solicitors is to provide legal services, including representation and pleading in court, to the general public, business, other professions and foreign clients. Their first duty is to their client. They are their client´s representatives in all legal business and must act in their client´s interest. That is why their rules of conduct include: an obligation to cease acting if a conflict of interest arises; an obligation to keep client details confidential (not even an address may be disclosed without the client´s consent); an obligation to keep clients’ money in a separate account; an obligation to honour undertakings even if not legally enforceable. The only exception to this duty to act on the client’s behalf is when it conflicts with a solicitor´s duly to uphold justice as an «Officer of the Supreme Court». Therefore clients can rely on their solicitors to get objective and confidential advice.
Solicitors in Private Practise
Just over 80% of solicitors work in private practice, either as sole practitioners or in a partnership. Sole practitioners are solicitors who own and manage their own firms. To become a sole practitioner a solicitor must have been qualified for 3 years. A partnership is where the management of the firm is controlled by a number of solicitor-partners, who divide the profits between them. Some employ a large number of staff, including other qualified solicitors. They sometimes employ foreign lawyers. Until recently it was not possible for solicitors to form a partnership with anyone who was not a solicitor. However, in 1992 new rules were introduced which allow solicitors to form partnerships with lawyers qualified in foreign jurisdictions. There are just over 8,500 solicitors´ firms in England and Wales, operating from about 14,000 offices across the country. In addition some firms have offices abroad, particularly in other parts of Europe, the United States, the Middle East and the Far East, where they advise clients on English and international law. Most firms have four or fewer partners, but there is a growing trend towards larger firms as law becomes increasingly complex and specialised. Firms with 20 partners or more are becoming common and the largest firms have more than 100 partners.
Employed Solicitors
About 10% of solicitors are employed either by local or central government, or by companies in commerce and industry, who have their own in-house legal departments. A further 1,500 solicitors are employed by the Crown Prosecution Service, a government agency which prosecutes in criminal cases on behalf of the police Employed solicitors have equal professional status with those in private practice: they are subject to the same rules and are recognised as fully independent lawyers. They are simply regarded as having agreed to work for one client only, their employer.

Additional information

What Do Solicitors Do?
There are solicitors´ offices in most towns in England and Wales. They are the first point of contact for the public when looking for legal advice, including work often performed by notaries in other countries, for instance transfers of real property, drawing up contracts, and handling successions.
General Practice
Solicitors in general practice serve the local community, solving the legal problems of the public. They are not, however, tied to any particular court: a solicitor can act throughout England and Wales. The formalities involved in real property transfer and succession form a significant share of the work of solicitors in general practice. Solicitors also pursue claims arising from personal injuries, or may be called upon to advise or plead in court on their client’s behalf in criminal cases. Family law is a significant area of work: solicitors often appear as advocates in matrimonial cases. Solicitors advise businesses on such issues as employment, contracts, company formation and competition policy.
Business Advisers
More than just providing legal advice, solicitors are trusted advisors upon whom clients can rely. A long history of involvement with a particular client enables a solicitor to advise on issues which only have a remote connection with the law, particularly concerning tax and other financial matters. For instance a solicitor might be able to arrange a mortgage (a special type of loan) to buy a house, or advise on tax issues relating to a will. Solicitors are at the heart of the local business community and have good relations with banks, accountants and other professionals. If unable to help a client with a problem, a solicitor will be able to find someone who can.
While a single firm might offer a full range of services, increasingly, individual solicitors and firms are specialising in areas of law in which they are experts. This is particularly true of firms dealing with business clients more often found in the major cities: their specialisms include banking law, entertainment law, corporate and commercial law, construction, trusts, environmental law, insurance, intellectual property, tax, competition, shipping and arbitration.
Commercial Expertise
The United Kingdom´s historical position as a centre of world trade and finance means that solicitors are experienced in advising on international transactions. English commercial law has developed over centuries to the extent that it is often chosen as the governing law in international contracts even when the transaction has no connection with England or Wales. In fact, over 80% of litigants before the London Commercial Court come from overseas.
Solicitors have two further advantages in international work: a time zone that overlaps with both the United States and the Far East; and a language which is used by the business community worldwide. This means solicitors are ideally qualified to act as co-ordinators where legal advice covering different jurisdictions is required. Solicitors also benefit from the historical ties between their country and the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, among others. English law and custom form the basis of common law legal systems in the former British Commonwealth and the United States.
There are approximately 10.000 practising barristers in England and Wales. Barristers are legal consultants offering specialist services, in particular as advocates or advisors in matters involving litigation. Barristers´ training concentrates on the art of advocacy, court procedure and the rules of evidence. Although most advocacy is undertaken by solicitors, barristers are often instructed to conduct a case because of their expertise and experience in pleading before the courts. The Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 removed the monopoly which allowed only barristers to appear as advocates in higher courts, and solicitors are now acquiring rights of audie


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