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What Is a Solicitor?

The word solicitor is derived from Old Middle English where it generally meant a deputy or agent. Presently, solicitor may have various meanings depending upon the context it was used in. However, the most common and general definition of a solicitor is that of a legal professional, or another word for lawyer.

Solicitors are lawyers who undertake legal transactions except advocating or acting as legal counsel in a court hearing, except in certain conditions. However, other definitions of solicitors exist. A solicitor may also be someone who solicits or seeks services, donations, or other goods from individuals or organizations.

The first meaning of solicitor is that of a lawyer, one who has undergone extensive legal training and is in possession of the correct credentials. In some parts of the world such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, there is a difference between a solicitor and a barrister, despite both being legal professionals. Solicitors handle legal proceedings that do not involve advocating within a court hearing as compared to a barrister who primarily handles court trials, acting as legal counsel for either the prosecution or the defense. In Canada, New Zealand, and some jurisdictions in Australia, a solicitor and barrister are considered to refer to a single individual. The fusion of the 2 meanings of the 2 distinct words is due to practicality.

It is also possible that the term solicitor is given to chief legal officers of a regional government such as a solicitor general. This is done in jurisdictions with a unified legal system.

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