Find Legal expertise in United Kingdom
- Legal System
The United Kingdom does not have a single legal system and has no written constitution. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) consists of four countries (England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland), forming three distinct jurisdictions (England and Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland), each with its own court system and legal profession. The (unwritten) constitution is made up of common law, statute law and conventions, and European legislation and may be changed by a simple act of parliament without any singular procedure or special majority. Court structure in England and Wales consists of the Supreme Court, the High Court, the Crown Court, the magistrates’ courts, county courts and tribunals. This structure is largely matched in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, however, the High Court of Judiciary is the final court of appeal, below which are the Sheriff Courts.
The legal profession in the UK is divided into three jurisdictions: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Legal practitioners in the UK are known as solicitors and barristers or advocates in Scotland. Amongst other distinctions between the two are that a solicitor has a right of audience only in certain courts, but a barrister may appear in any court; and a solicitor deals directly with his or her client, but professional etiquette demands that a barrister should deal with a client only through a solicitor. Mediation however is a growing practice. This is a service provided directly by barristers to their clients which attempts to settle disputes out of court.
Training to become a barrister is similar in the three areas; it consists of the academic phase, training and pupillage (known as devilling in Scotland). The last stage is concerned with the practical application of knowledge to the legal practice. Barristers and advocates who are deemed to have gained distinction in practice are given the honour of becoming ‘Queen’s Counsel’ by taking the Silk. In England and Wales barristers are largely self-employed but practice within chambers, groups of self-employed barristers. In 2012 there were over 15,000 employed and self-employed practicing barristers in England and Wales and 460 in Scotland.
Becoming a solicitor in the three jurisdictions is also similar with an academic stage followed by post-graduate academic training (a diploma in Scotland) and then practical training. There are exceptions for those who did not study law at degree level, but in all cases further training must be done before they can continue.
Key institutions in the legal profession are, for barristers, the General Council of the Bar (England and Wales), the Faculty of Advocates (Scotland) and the Bar Library (Northern Ireland). For solicitors: the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Law Society of England and Wales, and that of Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Information from the World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013
Legal rights index
Efficiency of legal framework in settling disputes
Efficiency of legal framework in challenging regulations
Property rights (including financial assets)
Intellectual property protection
|Legal organisations in United Kingdom|
|General Council of the Bar||
|Kester Cunningham John||
|Law Society, The||
|Solicitors Regulation Authority||