Frequently Asked Questions

General perception among people is that, Lawyers are supposed to know everything. It is also the general perception that, Lawyers don’t actually know anything.

So, if you are a lawyer or even if you have anything remotely to do with law (like being a driver to judge’s car), there are always some frequently asked questions, just to validate the above two perceptions. You better know the answers before you would get ridiculed.

Here I have compiled few of such FAQs with answers. A bit of research in and around internet. Hope, it helps.

1. If LL.B means Bachelor of Laws, then for what another ‘L’ stands for?

“LL.B.” actually stands for Legum Baccalaureus in Latin. The “LL.” of the abbreviation is from the genitive plural legum (of lex, legis f., law). It is sometimes erroneously called “Bachelor of Legal Letters” to account for the double “L”.

Interestingly, the abbreviation “LL.M” the post graduation degree or ‘Masters of Law’ as we know stands for Legum Magister in case of male students and for female students Legum Magistra.

2. Why do lawyers wear black gown or robe?

Are we still mourning?

History suggests that, by the start of 16th century, the fashion was for a long, open gown of sombre color, mostly mulberry. Thereafter, on the death of Charles II in 1685, the Bar entered a period of mourning and barristers wore a mourning gown. This was actually the origin of the robe worn by barristers today: with pleated shoulders and bell-shaped sleeves tapered at the elbow with two buttons.

For no particular reason, the fashion followed by the barristers and it was carried on for a longer period than they thought it would prevail.

The modern robe or gown also has a mysterious piece of triangular cloth attached to the left shoulder, often described as ‘violin-shaped’, which is cut in two lengthways. Its origin is obscure and there exist two theories. The first is that, this was once a money sack for brief fees. According to some, it is divided in half to create two segments, one for gold coins, and the other for silver. The theory is that since barristers were not openly paid for their work, clients placed ex-gratia payment into counsel’s pocket, literally behind their back, to preserve their dignity. The idea was that, if barristers could not see how much they were being paid, the quality of their advocacy in court could not be compromised.

The second theory is that the triangular cloth is a derivative of the mourning hood introduced following the death of Charles II, in keeping with traditional mourning dress of the time. This was the cast over the barristers’ left shoulder and held in place by a long tassel known as liripipe, originally held in the left hand. This liripipe has survived on the robe today, and is now represented by the strip of cloth that hangs down the front of the modern gown.

3. Why do lawyers wear Bands (Jabot)?

The white-collar bands which lawyers wear these days too has a long-standing in history. In 1640, lawyers swapped their neck ruffs, the fashion of the era, for plain linen ‘falling bands’, to conceal the collar of the shirt. The bands were originally wide and tied with the lace at the front. By the 1860’s, they had become two rectangles – as worn by barristers today. One theory is that the two rectangles represent the tablet of Moses. They were also worn by doctors and clergymen, however, and were probably a sign of learning.

4. Why do Judges wear Wig?

Ain’t I cool?

Weirdest theory for wigs. Even now, many Judges across the Globe wear wigs of different types. Costumes of Judges across various countries can be seen here. A glimpse of it would show, Judiciary is more fashionable than any other profession of its time.

Historically speaking, Charles II returned to England from France and brought with him the trend of the ‘periwig‘ from Louis XIV’s court. English society adopted the trend, as did barristers in 1663. Thereafter, the most fashion-conscious members of society tried to outdo one another with larger and larger wigs, hence the term ‘bigwig‘. Certain judges and senior counsel even today wear the long, bottomed wig – the spaniel look – on ceremonial occasions, to indicate their position.

Three styles of legal wig survived the fashion trends of the 17th and 18th centuries and are still in use:

(a) the long full – bottomed wig;

(b) the bob-wig, or ‘bench’ wig, which has frizzled sides rather than curls and a ‘queue’ (looped tail), and

(c) the tie-wig, the most common style worn by the majority of barristers today. The tie-wig has a fuzzed crown, with rows of curls, known as ‘buckles’ along the sides and back, and a looped tail at the rear.

In the time of King Charles II, all lawyers wore the full-bottomed wig. These were abandoned around 1740 in preference for the smaller, lighter tie-wigs. By the 19th century, the tie-wig became the hairpiece of choice for barristers, and is still worn today. Though, in many countries, the fashion of wearing wigs is still prevalent, India has lost interest in it. And, thankfully so.

5. What is ‘Called to the bar’?

Bar without a bartender.

Initial days (many of the courts, still prevalent), the courts rooms were partitioned off or enclosed by two bars or rails; one separated by the judge’s bench from the rest of the room; the other segregated the area for lawyers engaged in trials from the space allocated to the public, and from the space allocated to the public, and from those appearing before the court.

Advocate, or counsel, were called before the court, came to the ‘bar‘, and were admitted into the sealed-off area of the court hence; the term ‘called to the bar’ or being given the privilege to appear, before the court.

6. What is a ‘bench’?

Bench in legal contexts means simply the location in a courtroom where a judge sits.

The historical roots of that meaning come from the fact that judges formerly sat on long seats or benches (freestanding or against a wall) when presiding over a court. In modern courtrooms, the bench is usually an elevated desk area that allows a judge to view the entire courtroom (see photo at right).

But the word also has a broader meaning in the law – the term “bench” is a metonym used to describe members of the judiciary collectively, or the judges of a particular court, such as the Queen’s Bench or the Common Bench in England and Wales, or the federal bench in the United States.

The term is also used when all the judges of a certain court sit together to decide a case, as in the phrase “before the full bench”.

7. Who is the blind lady with scales and a sword?

No. That’s not how it works.

The blind lady, often rightly called as ‘Lady Justice’ is the Roman Goddess ‘Justitia‘, who is equivalent to the Greek Goddess Dike. Justitia is an allegorical personification of the moral force in the judicial system.

Justitia is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her right hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her left hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party.

Since the 15th century, Justitia has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness; blind justice and impartiality. Justitia was only commonly represented as “blind” since about the end of the 15th century.

8. Do lawyers have any history?

19th century painting where lawyers found gossiping about judges.

Yes. They do have a history.

The first people who could be called lawyers were the great speakers of ancient Greece. Individual people were presumed to present a defense their own cases, but that was circumvented by having a friend better at speaking do it for you. Around the middle of the fourth century, the Greeks got rid of the request for a friend. Second, a more serious obstacle, which the Greek orators never completely overcame, was the rule that no one could take a fee to plead the case of another. This law was disregarded in practice, but was never abolished, which meant that orators could never present themselves as legal professionals or experts. They had to uphold the ruse that they were an ordinary citizen helping out a friend for free, and so they could never organize into a real profession,with professional associations and titles ,like their modern lawyers.

If one narrows the definition to those men who could practice the legal profession openly and legally, then the first lawyers would have to be the orators of ancient Rome. A law enacted in 204 BC barred Roman advocates from taking fees, but the law was widely ignored. Not surprisingly, though.

The ban on fees was later on abolished by Emperor Claudius who legalized advocacy as a profession and allowed the Roman advocates to become the first lawyers who could practice openly—but he also imposed a fee ceiling of 10,000 sesterces. But very early on, unlike Greece, Rome developed a class of specialists who were learned in the law, known as ‘jurisconsults, iuris consulti, Jurisconsults‘ who were wealthy amateurs who dabbled in law as an intellectual hobby; they did not make their primary living from it. They gave legal opinions responsa on legal issues to all comers Roman judges and governors would routinely consult with an advisory panel of jurisconsults before rendering a decision, and advocates and ordinary people also went to jurisconsults for legal opinions. Thus, the Romans were the first to have a class of people who spent their days thinking about legal problems, and this is why their law became so “precise, detailed, and technical”.

9. What is the difference between ‘Lawyer’, ‘Advocate’, ‘Attorney’, ‘Barrister’ and ‘Solicitor’?

Lawyer. Attorney. Advocate. Solicitor. What am I exactly?

This could be the most confusing query for even most of the lawyers.

The answer is they are all types of Lawyers originated from various legal systems. Some of the terms are from the English legal system, some are from Scotland and some from the American legal system.

An Attorney is somebody legally empowered to represent another person, or act on their behalf.

A Lawyer is somebody who can give legal advice and has been trained in the law.

A Solicitor – One that solicits, especially one that seeks trade or contributions. The chief law officer of a city, town, or government department but does not act as an advocate in court, as opposed to the Attorney who pleads in court. (English Law).

A Barrister (Called Advocate in Scotland) presents the case in court. Most senior and distinguished barristers are designated King’s (Queen’s) counsel.

A Counselor at law– In the past at least in some U.S states there was a distinction between the term A Counselor at Law who argued the case in court and an attorney who prepared the case but didn’t argue it.

In practice, legal jurisdictions exercise their right to determine who is recognized as being a lawyer; as a result, the meaning of the term “lawyer” may vary from place to place.

  • In Australia the word “lawyer” is used to refer to both barristers and solicitors (whether in private practice or practising as corporate in-house counsel).
  • In Canada, the word “lawyer” only refers to individuals who have been called to the bar or have qualified as civil law notaries in the province of Quebec. Common law lawyers in Canada may also be known as “barristers and solicitors”, but should not be referred to as “attorneys”, since that term has a different meaning in Canadian usage. However, in Quebec, civil law advocates (or avocats in French) often call themselves “attorney” and sometimes “barrister and solicitor”.
  • In England and Wales, “lawyer” is used loosely to refer to a broad variety of law-trained persons. It includes practitioners such as barristers, solicitors, legal executives and licensed conveyancers; and people who are involved with the law but do not practise it on behalf of individual clients, such as judges, court clerks, and drafters of legislation.
  • In India, the term “lawyer” is often colloquially used, but the official term is “advocate” as prescribed under the Advocates Act, 1961.
  • In Scotland, the word “lawyer” refers to a more specific group of legally trained people. It specifically includes advocates and solicitors. In a generic sense, it may also include judges and law-trained support staff.
  • In the United States, the term generally refers to attorneys who may practice law; it is never used to refer to patent agents or paralegals.

Let me have your feedback.

7 Comments on “Frequently Asked Questions”

  1. Really a detailed post, and useful to non-lawyers too! Gonna forward it to my lawyer friends! Thanks!

  2. rahulwk says:

    I like fullform of LLB and LLM most..

  3. srinivasan says:

    really its very usefull honestly i agree that nw only i knw d differences of lawyer attorneys advocate thnx nd.wshs fr ur valuable efforts

  4. Dolashree says:

    I thought that the gown had something to do with the ecclesiastical class. And I very faintly remember one of my seniors explaining how the black and white had something to with truth and mourning it… I’m not sure of what I remember and what I dont 🙂

  5. […] If there’s one prominent reminder of our Britishness in Australia today it’s the lasting traditions of the legal profession, the wigs and gowns and accessories – all those barristerial chattels. Wearing of Wigs – Past Time for a Fresh Look. Subjudiced […]

  6. As a law sudent this is very informative

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