An airline captain was unhappy with her employment lawyer. I explained to her that her ‘employment lawyer’ was once a solicitor, but he was struck off for dishonesty. She had not understood that ‘lawyer’ does not mean ‘solicitor’.
She is not alone. There are more google searches for ‘employment lawyer(s)’ than for ‘employment solicitors’.
The title ‘solicitor’ or, more fully, ‘solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales’ is reserved by the Solicitors Act 1974 to people who are enrolled with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. To practise, they have to qualify as a solicitor, to pay an annual practising certificate fee and to comply with a strict regulatory regime which requires both professional indemnity insurance and complete security of client money. It takes at least six years of training to qualify as a solicitor. For an unqualified person to claim to be a solicitor is a criminal offence.
The title ‘lawyer’, however, is not regulated in any way. A ‘lawyer’ might be a barrister (with the same high standards of training as solicitors), a paralegal, a law student, a struck-off solicitor or simply anyone who claims the title. A ‘barrack-room lawyer’, perhaps? All solicitors are lawyers, but not all lawyers are solicitors.
You can always check up on a solicitor on The Law Society’s website: www.lawsociety.org.uk/choosingandusing/findasolicitor.law
So beware imitations. If you want a fully-qualified employment lawyer, check that he or she is a practising ‘solicitor’ or ‘barrister’ who specialises in employment law.