The magistrates 'court is the most common type of law court in the United Kingdom. The court system is dependent upon the legal profession to make it work. England is almost unique in having two different kinds of lawyers, with separate jobs in the legal system. The two kinds of lawyers are solicitors and barristers. This division of the legal profession is due mainly to historical causes. Each branch has its own characteristic functions and a separate governing body.
The division has a number of significant impacts upon the judicial system. It is the main reason for the separation between civil and criminal courts. It also has a significant impact upon judicial appointments. The traditional picture of the English lawyer is that the solicitor is the general practitioner, confined mainly to the office. The solicitor is the legal adviser of the public.
Members of the public are able to call at a solicitor's office and seek his advice in a personal interview. The barrister is the specialist adviser much of whose time is taken up with court-room appearance. A barrister can only be consulted indirectly through a solicitor. Today however the lines of demarcation are blurred. There is approximately one solicitor to every 1300 of the population, with considerable regional and local variations. There is a heavy concentration in commercial centres.
The ratio for barristers is about one per every 10,000. Taking the legal profession as a whole (38,500), there is one practicing lawyer per 1200 people. But a lot of work in English solicitors 'offices is undertaken by managing clerks, now called "legal executives" who are a third type of lawyers.
Thus, solicitors make up the largest branch of the legal profession in England. They are found in every town, where they deal with all the day-to-day work of preparing legal documents for buying and selling houses, making wills, etc. Solicitors also work on court cases for their clients, prepare cases for barristers to present in the higher court, and may represent their client in a Magistrates 'court. Barristers defend or prosecute in the higher courts.
Although solicitors and barristers work together on cases, barristers specialize in representing clients in court and the training and career structures for the two types of lawyer are quite separate. In court, barristers wear wigs and gowns in keeping with the extreme formality of the proceedings. There are a few hundred judges, trained as barristers, who preside in more serious cases. There is no separate training for judges.
A jury consists of twelve people ( "jurors"), who are ordinary people chosen at random from the list of people who can vote in elections. The jury listen to the evidence given in court in certain criminal cases and decide whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. If the person is found guilty, the punishment is passed by the presiding judge. Juries are rarely used in civil cases.
Magistrates judge cases in the lower courts. They are usually unpaid and have no formal legal qualifications, but they are respectable people who are given some training. (2599 t.un.)
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