What is Direct Access?
Direct Access, also known as Public Access, is the name given by the Bar Council to the scheme where anyone – members of the public, firms, companies – can directly instruct barristers without the use of a solicitor in accordance with the Bar Council’s Public Access scheme. For more information about Direct Access instructions, please see the Public Access Guidance for Lay Clients provided by the Bar Standards Board.
The public access scheme allows members of the public to instruct a barrister directly as long as that barrister has undertaken the necessary training and is authorised to accept instructions under the Direct Access scheme. In the past it was necessary for clients to use a solicitor or other third party in order to instruct a barrister.
What are the advantages of the Direct Access scheme?
The main advantage of the Direct Access scheme is that it could potentially save you money, since you would be paying for a barrister only, instead of a barrister and a solicitor. However, although the barrister would be able to deal with many aspects of the case, you may have to assist in some areas, including filing documents with the court, unless the barrister is also authorised to conduct litigation on your behalf. This is explained in more detail below but can be, in some cases, a complex and technical process. In some cases, the barrister may recommend that you instruct a solicitor because of the complexity of the case or because you may need more assistance than the barrister alone can provide.
Is my case suitable for Direct Access?
Direct Access is available for all types of work that barristers do, except for work that is funded by legal aid. However, some cases may not be suitable for Direct Access because of their emotional nature, because they are particularly complex or because the work that needs to be done to prepare the case would be difficult for you and may not be able to be done by a barrister. For example you may need to gather together the papers and the evidence in support of your case that the barrister will need to do the work that you require them to do. You may also need to file documents at court (such as expert reports, case summaries or witness statements depending on the nature of the case) and correspond with the court and other parties (although the barrister will be able to draft letters and other legal documents on your behalf).
If your case involves litigation (which is when a legal case is taken to and through a court or tribunal), you should check whether your barrister is authorised to conduct litigation on your behalf. If the barrister cannot do this for you, you will be a ‘litigant in person’ and will generally be treated by the court and the other side as though you were acting without any legal assistance. If your case goes to court you will be the person whose name appears in the court’s records, and all documents from the other parties and the court will be sent directly to you. However, you can sometimes ask or arrange for the court or tribunal and the other parties to copy documents to a third party other than your barrister. If your barrister has been authorised to conduct litigation then they will be able to undertake these tasks for you.
Barristers are allowed to accept instructions to read the papers and then advise whether or not they are able to perform the work which you require. If your instructions are accepted for these limited purposes, it is important that you and the barrister are both clear as to whether a charge is to be made. If preliminary work is to be carried out and a charge made for that work, you will be sent a ‘client care letter’.
If you are not sure whether your case would be suitable for Direct Access, please contact our Clerks on 020 7092 2900 or email email@example.com who can explain the process a little more. They may refer you to a barrister and if he/ she considers that your case would benefit from the involvement of a solicitor, they will tell you so.
What is the difference between the work that barristers and solicitors do?
The historic difference between what a barrister does and what a solicitor does has become less obvious over the last few years. However, barristers specialise in providing expert legal advice, advocacy in court and the drafting of documents. Solicitors normally give advice to and draft documents for their clients or may instruct a barrister to provide this service. In a Direct Access case, you will need to perform these roles yourself.
The following are some examples of work that a barrister is allowed to do:
- a barrister may appear on your behalf at court
- a barrister may give you legal advice
- a barrister may draft legal documents for you, such as a will or statement of claim
- a barrister may 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
- a barrister may draft and send letters for you. A barrister can assist you with drafting letters if your case goes to court but the letters will need to be sent out in your name.
- if a witness statement from you is required in proceedings, a barrister may prepare that statement from what you tell them. A barrister may also help to prepare witness statements from another person based on the information which that person has provided.
- where a case requires an expert witness (for example, a surveyor who can provide technical or professional evidence) a barrister may advise you on the choice of a suitable expert and may draft a letter of instruction which you can then send to the expert as a letter from you on your own notepaper.
- a barrister can negotiate on your behalf and can attend employment, police or investigative hearings where appropriate
The following are examples of work that a barrister is allowed to do, but only if they have been authorised to conduct litigation:
- file proceedings on your behalf with the court or file other applications, or take other formal steps in court or other proceedings. (If the barrister has not been authorised to conduct litigation, you will have to send the documents to the court, although the barrister could help prepare them for you.)
- instruct an expert witness on your behalf
- a barrister is not allowed to handle client money – by comparison, solicitors can hold client money.
Can the barrister, once instructed, decide to stop acting for me?
In some circumstances, yes. The barrister has a duty both to you and to the interests of justice in general. The time might come when the barrister decides that it would be appropriate for you to instruct a solicitor or another professional. This does not necessarily mean that the barrister has to stop acting for you but that some work needs to be done on your case which a barrister cannot undertake.
For example, if you needed to sue someone but you did not feel confident that you could do all the administrative tasks that a solicitor would do (issuing proceedings, etc.) then those tasks would have to be handed over to a solicitor. The barrister could still draft documents and represent you in court.
If this happens:
- we will tell you at the earliest opportunity
- we will help you to find a solicitor or other professional if you want us to do so
- we will tell you what steps you need to take to preserve the position while the solicitor or other professional is brought on board.
What will it cost?
The cost will depend on a number of factors, such as:
- the seniority and experience of the barrister consulted
- the difficulty of the case
- the amount of work involved
We can undertake work at an hourly rate or we can quote you a flat fee for particular pieces of work. But in all cases:
- the rate or fee will be negotiated and agreed with you before the work starts and we will keep to this;
- if it is clear that your case needs further work once the barrister has completed the agreed work you will be advised of this. If you want the barrister to do the further work and he or she is willing to undertake it, a new rate or fee will need to be negotiated and agreed before the further work is undertaken.
You may be asked to pay any fees in advance of the work being done.
Can I get public funding/ legal aid?
At present, public funding (also known as ‘legal aid’) is not available for work undertaken by barristers under the Direct Access scheme as any work that a barrister does which is funded by legal aid needs to be instructed by a solicitor. We are not able to advise you on your eligibility for public funding but you can contact a solicitor who does legal aid work or check the Government’s website at www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid.
Can any of the barristers at 1 Chancery Lane help me?
1 Chancery Lane operates as a group of independent, self-employed barristers each with his or her own areas of practice. Together, members of Chambers can provide specialist help over a wide range of legal areas. If you want to find out more about the services we offer, look at the Practice Areas section of our website to see what we all do and at the Barristers section to see each barrister’s personal qualifications and experience. Those barristers who are currently authorised to accept Direct Access instructions are: Andrew Goodman, Nicholas Yell, Justin Althaus, Geoffrey Weddell, Maurice Rifat, Paul Stagg, Zachary Bredemear, Russell Wilcox, Ian Stebbings, Richard Cherry, Simon Newman, Conor Kennedy and Christopher Pask.
How do I instruct a barrister at 1 Chancery Lane?
If you believe that we may be able to help you, please either call our Clerks room on 020 7092 2900 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org setting out a short summary of your position.
Please do not send us any documents (especially original documents) until a barrister has agreed to take your case.
What happens next?
We cannot accept any responsibility for advising you until the barrister you want to instruct has agreed to take your case. Once the barrister has agreed to act for you, you will be sent a ‘client care letter’. This letter will be your contract with the barrister for the work to be done.