Direct Access to a Barrister FAQs

What can direct access barristers do?

Barristers are able to provide specialist legal advice, drafting and advocacy services to the public direct without the intervention of a solicitor. These rules known as the Public Access Rules came into force on 6th July 2004.

Here are some examples of work I can carry out for you.

  • I can appear on your behalf at court.
  • I can give you legal advice.
  • I can draft legal documents for you, such as a contract or statement of claim.
  • I can advise you on the formal steps which need to be taken in proceedings before a court or other organisation and draft formal documents for use in those proceedings.
  • I can draft and send letters for you including a ‘letter before action’. I can assist you with drafting letters but, if your case goes to court, the letters will need to be sent out in your name.
  • If a witness statement is needed from you, I can draft it from what you tell me. I may also be able to help finalise a witness statement from another person based on the information that person has provided.
  • I can advise you on the need for expert evidence and on the choice of a suitable expert. However I may not instruct an expert on your behalf. Expert evidence is evidence about a professional, scientific or technical matter provided by an individual with expertise in that area.
  • I can negotiate on your behalf and can attend meetings or investigative hearings where appropriate.
  • I can appear on your behalf in ADR such as mediation or arbitration.

What are the advantages of instructing a barrister?

In short, direct access to specialist legal services without you first having to incur the costs of instructing a solicitor to access my services.

Barristers are specialists in their particular areas of practice and as sole practitioners are wholly responsible for their own work. Instruct a barrister under the direct access scheme and from day 1 you have expert advice and assistance.

Barristers as sole practitioners typically have significantly lower overheads than solicitors – cost savings that can be passed on to you.

What can't you do as a barrister under the direct access scheme?

If your case is suitable for direct access, it is important that you are aware of the limits of the work that I am able to carry out for you and what would remain your responsibility.

I am not permitted to conduct litigation on your behalf.

This means that I cannot serve court documents on other parties or file them at court on your behalf. You will need to take responsibility for serving formal court documents on other parties and filing them at court.

Serving court documents is the process by which papers relating to a case are put before the court or tribunal and the parties, eg individuals or organisations, involved in the case. This usually signals the start of formal proceedings.

However, and importantly, I can advise you on the formal steps which need to be taken in proceedings before a court or other organisation and draft formal documents for use in those proceedings.

I am not permitted to undertake the day to day management of your affairs.

I cannot instruct an expert witness on your behalf.

I cannot handle client money. This means I cannot take money on account of fees.

Can I get public funding/legal aid?

Public funding is not available for direct access work. It is my duty to ensure that you are able to make an informed decision about whether to apply for legal aid or whether to proceed with direct public access. In cases where you may be eligible, I will advise you to approach a solicitor who may then properly assess your eligibility. For further advice on funding see the Bar Standards Board’s Public Access Guidance for Lay Clients.

Is every case or matter suitable for direct access?

No. Not every case is suitable for public access and I am under a continuing professional duty to consider whether such an arrangement is in your best interests and serves the interest of justice.

Broadly speaking, I need to be satisfied that you are able to perform any steps that would usually be carried out by a solicitor. The complexity of your case and the stage it has reached are relevant factors in my assessment.

It is important that you appreciate that circumstances may arise in which I am under a professional duty to recommend that a solicitor (or other professional client) is instructed; failing which I would have to withdraw from the case.

What will I be expected to do?

If your case is suitable for direct access, it is important that you are aware of the limits of the work that I am able to carry out for you and what would remain your responsibility.

As you are instructing me without a solicitor, you must be sure that you are able to do whatever is necessary for those matters that I cannot deal with (see ‘What can’t you do as a barrister under the direct access scheme?’ above) or, alternatively, you have made an arrangement with another person of suitable competence and experience to provide these services for you.

If you are unable to act on my behalf on a direct access basis, can you recommend an alternative?

Where I consider that it is not in your interests or the interests of justice for me to provide services to you on a direct access basis (e.g. because of the complexity), where possible, I will try and recommend a solicitor or other professional client to meet your needs.

There is no reason why I cannot continue to act on your behalf if you do indeed instruct a solicitor or other professional client.

How will I be charged?

In all but rare cases, fees will be agreed on a fixed fee basis.

However, there may be cases where it is impossible for me to determine at the outset how much work is involved. In such cases my fee will be chargeable on an hourly basis dependent on the nature of the work required.

You may also be charged for disbursements which include travel, accommodation and photocopying.

All fees will be agreed upfront. In no case will there be any hidden costs.

For more information on specific pricing structures, please do not hesitate to contact me.

When do I have to pay?

Where a fixed fee is agreed, the fee is payable immediately and in advance of any work done. Any work done may be withheld until you have paid any outstanding fees.

Where my fee is calculated on an hourly basis, the fee is payable on completion of the work that you have asked me to carry out. Any work done may be withheld until you have paid any outstanding fees.

Where payment is not made within the agreed time, I may cease to carry out any further work on your behalf until all outstanding fees have been paid.

What payment methods do you accept?

Fees may be paid by bank transfer, cash or cheque.

Can I recover my costs?

A successful litigant in person who obtains an order for costs may recover the costs of using a barrister under the direct access scheme as disbursements.

There are an increasing number of claims consultants and other non-legal professionals entering the legal services market.

However, you should note that the current position is that the costs of using claims consultants and other non-legal professionals (fee charging McKenzie Friends) are NOT recoverable.

What are your normal office hours?

Normal office hours are between 9.30am and 5.30pm Monday to Friday.

It is important to understand that I may not be able to speak to you immediately. This may be for a number of reasons. As I handle all my own work, I may be in court for a day or several days in a row. I may also be attending to another client. However, I shall endeavour to respond to your call within 24 hours.

In the case of emergency, please use the mobile number provided on acceptance of your instructions.

What is the best way to contact you?

You may contact me by email, Skype or phone as required.

Confidentiality and compulsory disclosure of information

I am under a professional duty to keep your affairs confidential (unless any disclosure is required or permitted by law or you have given your informed consent to such a disclosure).

I am registered as a data controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – see entry at https://ico.org.uk/ESDWebPages/Entry/ZA160057.

Are you subject to regulation?

Yes. All barristers in independent practice at the Bar of England and Wales are regulated by the Bar Standards Board which is responsible for regulating the conduct of barristers and ensuring that professional standards are met.

Do you have professional indemnity insurance?

Yes. Standard Cover up to £500,000 per claim for your peace of mind.

I would like to proceed – What next?

What information is required?

Please provide the following to allow me decide whether or not I am able to act on your behalf:

  • A short written summary of the services you require and the basic facts relevant to it, including details of any legal advice already obtained.
  • Copies of all relevant primary documentation (unless clearly voluminous). Documentation may, depending on the facts of the case, include draft contracts, court documents, correspondence between parties etc.

N.B. Please do not send original documents.

Your initial written instructions, together with copies of supporting documentation, are necessary for me, in the first instance, to consider whether the matter is suitable for direct access.

Is a preliminary meeting necessary?

A preliminary meeting may be required to enable me to take your further instructions to decide whether or not I am able to act on your behalf.

However, in most cases, a face to face meeting may still be unnecessary at this stage if it is possible to take your further instructions in writing or over the telephone/Skype. That said, if you would prefer a face to face meeting, this can be arranged at your convenience.

What is a Client Care letter?

Before I carry out any chargeable work on your behalf, I will send you a client care letter. The client care letter will form the basis of the agreement between us and will contain details of the work to be provided, the fees payable and the other terms of the agreement.

It is important that you read the client care letter carefully, and if acceptable to you, sign and return the copy of the letter provided. An electronic copy of a signed client care letter is perfectly acceptable.

Any further work agreed between us will be the subject of a further client care letter.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if any of the matters raised in the client care letter require further clarification.

A draft client care letter may be viewed here.

Additional Documents

As a matter of good practice, I will ask for identification and proof of address. I will also ask in appropriate cases for a signed letter of authority to enable me to discuss any relevant matters with the court and/or other party’s representatives.

Retention of documents

I am required to retain copies of all documents enclosed with any of your instructions for my records for a period of 7 years.

What if I have a complaint?

Naturally, I hope that you will be entirely happy with the services provided. However, if you have a complaint, I shall in the first instance try to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction. If you remain unhappy with the outcome, I will ask you to put your complaint in writing (if you have not already done so) and provide you with a copy of Chambers’ complaints procedure.

I still can't find the answer to my question.

I am happy to answer any further questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information.

For further information on public access to barristers from the client’s perspective, see the Bar Standards Board’s own Public Access Guidance for Lay Clients.