Originally published for 'Legally Speaking' by LaTrobe Valley Express Partner, Bree Knoester was recently interviewed about the differences between a barrister and solicitor, and what prompted her career change.
You were a barrister, and are now a Partner of a law firm. What is the difference between being a barrister and a solicitor?
A barrister is a court lawyer who presents and argues cases on behalf of their clients. A solicitor is the person with the day-to-day conduct of the case and the ongoing contact with the client. The easiest way to recognise a barrister is that they wear the black robes and [until recently] a horse-hair wig. This was (originally) so everyone was equal and anonymous before a judge - that it didn't matter what you wore, you all appeared the same in a courtroom.
What prompted the change?
I started my career as a solicitor and in 2006 became a barrister. I was a barrister for over eight years and ran many jury trials, appeared in the Court of Appeal and the High Court - but I missed working with clients every day. I joined Adviceline Injury Lawyers in March 2014.
Now, as the solicitor, I get to help clients achieve outcomes or settlements that can change their lives - it is extraordinarily rewarding. Also, returning to work as a solicitor has meant I can return to acting for sufferers of asbestos and dust diseases and to return to working in the area where I grew up and where my extended family still reside.
How did you come to work with asbestos sufferers?
Having grown up in the Latrobe Valley the asbestos legacy in this area is well known to me. Over 140,000 Latrobe Valley power station workers were exposed to asbestos between the 1920s and 1980s, and contract mesothelioma at seven times the state average. One of my first jobs, whilst I was at University, was volunteering in a local Latrobe Valley law firm and helping asbestos clients. I then did that work for the Commonwealth and now have returned to helping asbestos disease sufferers.
There is always a real need in regional Victoria for injured people to be able to access legal representation locally, and in 2015 we opened a visiting office in Kirk Street, Moe. I am loving the opportunity to reconnect with this community, and feel privileged to look after the asbestos practice in this area and at Adviceline Injury Lawyers. I also help out clients with WorkCover, public liability and medical negligence issues and claims.