How can a lawyer – called a ‘solicitor’ in many common law countries – be confused with a prostitute, beggar or hawker? No joke. In Australia, they’re looking at banning the word.

Plans are afoot in Victoria, Australia to ban the title solicitor because it confuses lawyers with prostitutes, beggars and hawkers. The Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, said the word “evokes thoughts of panhandlers, door-to-door salesmen and streetwalkers”.

“In fact, in the US there are signs around the place saying, ‘Do not give money to solicitors’.”

To clearly distinguish the three, Mr Hulls plans to replace the title solicitor with lawyer in the Legal Practice Act. Barristers, however, will continue to be known as barristers even if there is a risk that they’ll be confused with coffee roasters.

Mr Hulls said it made sense to dispense with the title solicitor both because it was outmoded and it was not understood in many places overseas.

The president of the Law Institute of Victoria, Bill O’Shea, said doing away with the title solicitor would make sense, even if it was not the most pressing legal issue of the day. It would bring Australia into line with the US, Canada, South Africa and India.

“Most of the big law firms have already moved away from the term and now include the word lawyers in their titles,” he said.

Solicitors advise clients on legal matters, prepare cases before they go to court and draft contracts and wills.