You can instruct a barrister directly, without going through a solicitor, depending on the work you need to be done. This is called ‘direct access’, or ‘public access’.
For more information, please see the Bar Standards Board Public Access Guidance for Lay Clients
- What is "Direct Access"?
Under direct access, our barristers are able to help if your case falls in any of the following categories:
You need legal advice and analysis
You are engaged in a course of correspondence
You want work carried out before litigation starts
You wish to negotiate with the other side
You wish to appeal
You are engaged in a hearing before a tribunal
You wish to avoid litigation altogether
You wish to engage in Mediation
There will be a trial without many, or any, issues of fact
The case involves points of law rather than fact
The case is not contentious at all, but requires advice or drafting of a letter or document.
- What areas of Direct Access can you instruct our barristers in?
- Landlord & tenant
- Land law, including title & boundary disputes
- Media and entertainment
- Negligence & personal injury
- Probate, inheritance & trusts
- What is the difference between barristers and solicitors?
Barristers give expert advice, draft documents and act as advocates ( represent you at hearings). Most barristers are specialists in one or more area of law. Some solicitors will provide some of these services too. Solicitors generally take responsibility for handling a client’s affairs, clients’ money and for the general management of a client’s legal case (the conduct of litigation). Barristers cannot undertake such work.
Barristers tend to charge a fixed fee for a piece of work or for a hearing. Solicitors tend to charge by the hour, including travel time and waiting. Solicitors may also refer your case on to a barrister anyway, in which case you pay both the solicitor and the barrister. Under the Direct Access scheme, you only pay for the barrister, and you know the cost up-front.
- What does a Civil or Commercial barrister do
Barristers may spend their lives wearing wigs and presenting cases in court in criminal work, but in commercial and property work the work is varied and can cover:
- Advocacy and representation in the High Court and County Courts and certain tribunals
- Advocacy and legal submissions on paper
- Written and oral legal and tactical advice
- Drafting documents for court and for use in litigation, (such as Particulars of Claim, Defences, Counterclaims, Letters before Claim, Witness Statements and Notices of Appeal)
- Negotiating settlements
- Drafting of commercial and other agreements for use by businesses and individuals
Barristers provide clients with objective and independent advice. A Barrister is a problem-solver, analytical with the training to sort good points from bad ones at an early stage of a dispute. An experienced Barrister will have developed a feel for what a Judge is likely to think and say about a particular argument. This helps the Barrister to give sound advice. A good Barrister will be economical with client funds and will not embark on a course of action without a careful assessment of risk.
- Is a barrister obliged to accept Public Access work?
Barristers who undertake direct access work must be satisfied that the case is suitable for direct access. If the barrister considers that it is not in your interests or the interests of justice to proceed by way of direct access, he or she will decline your instructions and refer you to a solicitor. Each case will depend on its particular facts: the barrister will consider the nature of the work that you wish him or her to undertake and your own ability to deal with the parts of your case that would otherwise have been handled by a solicitor.
- Can you get public funding?
If you are eligible for public funding, a barrister is likely to advise you to approach a solicitor.
Barristers cannot carry out the means assessment required to establish whether you would qualify for public funding, and are not allowed to apply to the Legal Services Commission for public funding on your behalf. If it appears that you may qualify for public funding, the barrister is likely to advise you to approach a solicitor with a franchise from the Legal Services Commission to investigate this possibility.
- What about "no win no fee" arrangements?
The Bar Council has given guidance to barristers that Conditional Fee Arrangements (often called ” no win no fee “) are not generally appropriate for direct public access clients.
If you want your case to be funded on a no win no fee basis, the barrister is likely to advise you to approach a solicitor who is prepared to work on this basis, who can then instruct a barrister as appropriate. If the case is eventually funded on a CFA, the costs of instructing both a solicitor or barrister will not generally be borne by you anyway.
- How do you instruct a barrister?
- What happens next?
The barrister may need a preliminary meeting or discussion by phone before deciding whether the matter is suitable for Direct Access , and may wish to see any relevant documents before making the decision. The barrister will advise you whether or not you will be charged for this meeting or for considering the documents.
If the barrister agrees that your case is suitable for Direct Access, you and the barrister will have to agree the terms on which he or she is to carry out the work. Those terms will be set out in a client care letter which will be sent to you. The client care letter is a very important document. It contains a description of the work to be undertaken, the basis on which you will be charged for that work, and the other terms of the agreement between you and the barrister. If you are unclear about any of the contents of that letter, you must raise your concerns with the barrister immediately.
The law requires the barrister, in certain circumstances, to obtain proof of your identity, ie proof of your name, date of birth and current address. The barrister will advise you of the type of evidence required, which will depend on the circumstances.
If your case is not suitable for Direct Access, the barrister will tell you so. If you wish, he or she may recommend a suitable solicitor for you to instruct.
- How will I be charged?
A barrister usually charges according to their level of experience , the complexity of the case and the length of time involved in dealing with it. Our barristers will agree a fixed fee for each piece of work that you ask them to undertake, and will require this fee to be paid in advance.
Our quotes are net of VAT. But all our barristers have to be registered for VAT so VAT will be charged where applicable on all barristers’ fees.
Extra costs may include travel expenses, accommodation, copying charges and search fees. These will be agreed with you in advance.
Where the fee relates to a hearing, the barrister is normally entitled to the fee, whether or not the hearing goes ahead. If that is to be the case, the barrister will tell you. You may, if you wish, try to agree a different basis for payment of the fee in such a case.
Where it is not possible to agree a fixed fee in advance, you should ask for an estimate. It may also be possible for you agree with the barrister that there should be a “ceiling” on the fee charged for a particular piece of work. Where a fee is not fixed in advance and the work involves the production of paperwork (for example, the drafting of a contract), the barrister may nevertheless require you to pay for the work after he or she has completed it and before releasing it to you. If that is to be the case, the barrister should tell you at the outset.
The barrister is required to keep sufficient records to justify the fees that he or she is charging. You are entitled to details to justify the fee that you are being charged.
From time to time barristers may decide to increase the rate at which they charge. That will never happen mid-instruction. But it may happen in the course of a long-running case. If it does, we will let you know and you will have the option either to agree to pay the barrister at the increased rate or to instruct another barrister.
- Recovering fees from your opponent and insurance
The court will deciding whether you are entitled to recover your litigation costs from your opponent by considering many factors. However the general rule is that the ‘losing’ party will be ordered to pay the ‘successful’ party’s costs.
If the court orders your opponent to pay your costs it will either assess the costs there and then (summary assessment). Or it may direct that the costs be assessed by a costs judge (detailed assessment). In either case the court will be assessing whether those costs were reasonably incurred and whether they are proportionate to the issues in the case. For these reasons there is no guarantee that your opponent will be ordered to pay all of the costs which you have agreed to pay your barrister.
Recovering the money which you spend on your lawyers is an important aspect of any civil litigation, sometimes the most important aspect. It is something which you should always keep in mind and discuss with your solicitor and/or barrister as you go along.
The availability of insurance to manage the risks associated with litigation
There are many risks associated with litigation. Foremost amongst these is the risk that you may be ordered to pay the whole or some part of your opponent’s costs. It is not always possible to control effectively the amount of costs which your opponent incurs. So it is possible that even though your costs are relatively modest your opponent’s will not be. This may come as a particularly heavy blow because you will already have incurred your own costs in the litigation and will also probably have lost your case.
Given these risks, it is generally wise at least to consider the possibility of insuring against them. This form of insurance is known as, ‘after the event insurance’ or ‘ATE’. Some ATE insurers are also willing to assist their policyholders with the payment of issue fees and other litigation expenses and offer premiums which are payable only in the event of success.
Policies of home insurance and others often include some cover in respect of legal expenses. So, it is important to check whether you might possibly be covered for the whole or some part at least of your legal expenses. It is also worth noting that while legal expenses insurers are entitled to insist that you instruct their nominated firms before proceedings are issued, once they have been issued you are free to instruct whoever you wish.
You may also be entitled to assistance with legal fees through your Union or professional body.
If you would like more information on this subject you should ask your barrister or solicitor. Alternatively, further information is available at: https://www.legalchoices.org.uk/legal-choices/moneytalks/after-the-event-insurance/. The website is run by the legal regulators and makes information available to assist consumers.
- Can I instruct a barrister direct when I have already instructed solicitors?
You may instruct a barrister directly even though you have already instructed solicitors. If you do so, the barrister will still have to consider whether he or she should accept your instructions. However, the fact that you have retained solicitors is not of itself a reason for refusing to accept your instructions; nor may the barrister contact your solicitors without your permission. However, there may be cases (for example, where your case involves existing litigation) where a barrister will refuse to accept your instructions unless you give him or her permission to contact and liaise with your solicitors.
- Confidentiality and compulsory disclosure of information
Your barrister will be under a strict professional duty to keep your affairs confidential. Legal professional privilege protects your communications with your barrister from disclosure. The only exception is that statutory and other legal requirements may cause a barrister to disclose information which he or she has received from you to governmental or other regulatory authorities and to do so without first obtaining your consent to such disclosure or telling you that he or she has made it.
- Original documents
Please do not send original documents to Chambers. If originals are required at Court or for some other meeting then please bring them with you when you attend.
Chambers cannot accept responsibility for any originals that are lost whilst being conveyed to, or by, Chambers or whilst in our care.