lawyer = solicitor
Solicitor = a lawyer who up until recently could not appear in court on behalf of his/her client. Yes, he/she would be in the courtroom, but could not speak to the judge (I am suddenly feeling embarassed for a system that I have not control over and all of a sudden seems very "old fashioned" ). He/she could only talk through the barrister.
I don't know the exact changes but the rules were changing so that solicitors were supposed to be able to represent their client in court, for certain types of cases - I think just the minor ones.
Barrister = lawyer who is "briefed"/"instructed" (which basically means hired!) by the solicitor to represent the client in court. They tend to be very expensive, charge by the hour etc etc and wear the black capes/gowns and white wigs you may have seen on television/english movies
When doing the legal training the student has to decide whether he/she wants to become a barrister/solicitor but at the end of the day, they are both lawyers.
For instance, with respect to say OJ Simpson or Michael Jackson (the only two cases I have seen on television and therefore could try and give you some sort of comparison) - Johnny Cochrane would probably have been the barrister (lead counsel) and the others, solicitors.
In terms of salary, it used to be the case that junior/trainee solicitors earnt more than their equivalents as barristers. I believe this was mainly because solicitors had more corporate clients. However, once a barrister has earned a reputation, he/she could go on to earn more than a solicitor, unless that solicitor was especially renowned in their field.
So basically, US lawyers do both the "office" and "court" work whereas here, due to the split, solicitors do the "office" work and if the case goes to trial, then a barrister is instructed (hired) and he/she then does the talking in court.