WGBH's Drama Club is delighted to announce that the popular BBC Drama Silk is now on WGBH Passport. We've been loving this series, from the familiar faces (an even younger Tom Hughes), to the sneaky in-fighting — with all the drama in the Shoe Lane Chambers we will guarantee that the characters of Silk will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Watch Silk now!

But while you're watching the series, you may pick up that, well, UK court proceedings differ from those we're used to seeing in US procedurals. Keep on reading to learn a little bit more about barristers, solicitors, magistrates and more — we think you can handle the truth.

Silk Lawyers
Courtesy of BBC

Lawyers? Or Barristers?

In the United States, generally you have one attorney representing you in court. In the United Kingdom they have two types of legal representation: solicitors and barristers. While solicitors deal with the legal matters of a case, such as drafting documents and reviewing evidence, the barrister focuses more significantly on an argument to present to the jury.

The Verdict is In.

In the US, indictments — the formal accusation of a crime — are determined by a grand jury. That means a jury of your peers examines the evidence, hears testimonies, and then decides if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. In the UK, an indictment is handed out by the Magistrates court which consists of a panel of 3 judges.

Silk Wigs
Courtesy of BBC

Wigs (Snatched or Otherwise!)

Today, judges and lawyers in the United States are simply required to wear business attire to court. But in the UK, both barristers and judges wear specialty wigs, or perukes. Barristers will wear a short wig with curls in it, that can cost up to $500. A judge's wig is much longer in length and can cost up to $3,000. These wigs, along with a wing collar and robes, are seen as a uniform which serves to both create a more formal atmosphere and create level of anonymity to those wearing them.


Like in the US, jurors are selected at random in the UK. However, as opposed to the extensive questioning process that occurs in the US, the United Kingdom sees a slightly less intense procedure. The legal teams on each side of the case are given a list of the jurors to review to ensure that there are no obvious biases. And unlike Stateside lawyers, UK legal teams are not given any opportunities to dismiss a juror for no reason.

Courtesy of BBC

Taking Silk

From the name of the show to the plot of the very first episode, Silk makes it obvious that 'taking your silks' is a pretty big deal in the UK legal system. But what does it mean? In the UK, there's The Queen’s Counsel — an assembly of lawyers that have been practicing for a time and have achieved a great deal of career success. Lawyers on the Queen’s Counsel are typically referred to as 'Silks' because they wear special silk gowns.

So now that you know what the stakes are, and some of the quirkier (to us) differences in the UK legal system, go check out Silk – you won't regret it.