Some members of Chambers are qualified to take instructions directly from members of the general public. The information on this page provides helpful guidance and answers to frequently asked questions about Public Access.

Please note that our full terms and conditions of engagement are available only directly to the client once the barrister has been instructed and retained.

Public Access: what is it?

Traditionally, the legal profession in England and Wales has been known as a ‘split’ profession and has been divided between solicitors and barristers. Clients can be represented by both branches of the profession at various different stages of a case. However, solicitors have traditionally been the first port of call for members of the public who require advice and representation. If necessary (for example in particularly complex cases) a barrister could then be instructed by the solicitor. The Bar was therefore known as a ‘referral profession’. In the past clients could not instruct barristers directly and always had to be referred through a solicitor.

However, the legal landscape has shifted. Changes to the rules in relation to the instruction of barristers mean that a small number of specially trained barristers are now permitted to accept instructions directly from members of the public, without the need for a solicitor.

What is a barrister?

Barristers are qualified legal professionals who specialise in providing advice and advocacy services. Traditionally, solicitors meet clients in their offices and prepare cases for trial. If necessary, the solicitor then sends the case papers to a barrister who is instructed to conduct court hearings, including trials.

As a general rule, barristers tend to spend more time in court than solicitors and conduct trials (or ‘final hearings’) more regularly. Their training is focused on advocacy, and their court-based expertise allows these skills to be developed and perfected from a very early stage.

Barristers also provide expert advice to clients and will often draft documents, such as pleadings, application notices and grounds of appeal.

What is a QC?

A limited number of senior barristers are known as QCs (Queen’s Counsel). QCs are also known as silks (named after their silk robes) and are known for their outstanding ability and excellence in advocacy. They are normally instructed in very serious or complex cases.

What are the advantages of Public Access?

The change in the rules now mean that the general public can have access to members of the Bar for the first time. Instructing a barrister directly can have a number of advantages over instructing either a solicitor, or a barrister through a solicitor.

Extensive and expensive correspondence can considerably drive up legal costs. Although barristers are generally unable to conduct litigation, by not being directly involved in the day-to-day management of your case, they can offer potential costs savings during litigation. By undertaking this aspect of the case yourself, costs can be minimised and funds can be focused precisely where they are required: for hearings at court.

Added to this, because of the stream-lined nature of the business structure of barristers’ chambers, we are able to minimise overheads. Barristers undertake all of their professional obligations personally. As such, we do not have large pools of assistants and secretaries that have to be paid for. As our overheads are less, we are in a position to pass that saving directly to members of the general public.

What can barristers do?

In summary, barristers can:

  • Offer initial advice and assistance away from court or during the pre-proceedings stage
  • Assist you with drafting letters and other correspondence (but we cannot send it on your behalf)
  • Draft pleadings (official court documents) and other legal documents
  • Represent you at directions hearings
  • Represent you at final hearings
  • Attend with you during mediation
  • Represent you during arbitration (in appropriate cases)

What can barristers not do?

Because of limitations place on us by our regulatory body (the Bar Standards Board), barristers are prohibited from conducting litigation. Although there is no definitive list of prohibited actions, nor is litigation defined, barristers are not allowed:

  • To deal with correspondence
  • To issue proceedings
  • To accept service on your behalf
  • To hold client funds

However, whilst we cannot enter in to correspondence directly on your behalf, we can assist you with drafting letters and advise you on content.

We must also be mindful of your needs at every stage of a case. If we take the view that your needs would be better served by the instruction of a solicitor, then we will advise you as such. We will be able to provide guidance and assistance about this.

What areas of law are covered?

A barrister is only permitted to represent you in an area of law in which he or she specialises. Please view our different practice areas for a breakdown of which barrister practises in which area. You may also wish to view the individual profiles of our barristers.

How can I instruct a barrister?

Your first point of contact will be with our clerks. Clerks are responsible for managing our barristers’ diaries but they are not legally trained. As such, they are not able to offer legal advice.

The clerks will find out what your case involves by asking you about it. They will be able to form a view whether or not your case is suitable for Public Access.

To start the process, please feel free to complete our enquiry form available to download here and email a copy to reception@stiveschambers.co.uk

Alternatively you can telephone Chambers and ask to speak to one of the clerks about your public access enquiry on 0121 236 0863.

What happens next?

If the clerks decide that your case is suitable for Public Access, they will recommend an appropriate barrister to advise you. In consultation with you, the clerks will advise you as to the next step. They will consider whether it would be in your interests for an initial appointment with the barrister to take place in chambers.

Additional fee transparency information

If you are looking to instruct a Barrister on a Public Access basis in relation to financial disputes in divorce or inheritance act matters and the total value of the assets involved is less than £300,000, please refer to the following information about likely fees and timescales. Please note these fees are indicative only, for a formal quotation please contact our clerks.

Public Access – Financial Disputes in Divorce (where total assets are less than £300,000)

Our barristers can advise you if you and your former partner cannot agree on financial matters during, or after, a divorce. For example, you may not be able to agree on how assets should be divided, whether to sell your home or other assets, maintenance payments, or pension sharing. If you cannot agree, you can apply to a court for a financial order. You may need to attend a number of court hearings – our barristers can represent you in these hearings.

Timescales

Timescales for your case may vary depending on factors such as barristers’ availability, the value and complexity of your assets, whether you have children, how much you have already agreed with your former partner, and their approach. Written advice on your financial dispute will be available within two to four weeks where possible. As a guide, court hearings for a financial order tend to take six to twelve months. This does not include possible appeals.

Fees

We may charge fixed fees, which means that we will charge you a set amount of money for the work. Below we provide estimates based on the ranges of fixed fees for barristers in St Ives Chambers, where the parties have joint assets which are worth less than £300,000. All fees include VAT (where applicable). If we charge fixed fees, these may be towards the higher end of the range if you need a more experienced barrister. If you have a particularly complex case, your fees may also be higher than the estimates below.

Stage of Case Range of Fixed fees (estimates)
Written advice on your financial dispute £500 – £3000 + VAT
Preparation of case including meetings with you and assistance with drafting of any court documents £500 – £3000 + VAT
First Appointment (first court hearing exchanging financial information) £850 – £3000 + VAT
Financial Dispute Appointment (second court hearing to reach a financial settlement) £1250 – £5000 + VAT
First day of Final Hearing (if no settlement was reached in the financial dispute resolution appointment) £1500 – £7500 + VAT
Court appearances per day after the first day of Final Hearing £750 – £3500 + VAT

 

Any additional work which falls outside the scope of the above will be discussed with you and fees agreed upon in advance.

All information is correct as of 1st August 2021, but fees are estimates only. For a quotation, please contact the clerks.  Please also contact the clerks if you and your former partner have joint assets which are worth more than £300,000.

Public Access – Inheritance Act (where total assets are less than £300,000)

The Inheritance Act 1975 protects spouses (including former spouses), cohabitants, children and other dependants when a person dies without leaving sufficient money for the dependent’s continued wellbeing. Our barristers can provide you with written advice on whether you can make a claim under the Act. Our barristers can also provide you with written advice when a person dies and you are a beneficiary of the estate, but someone else makes a claim under the Act.

Timescales

Timescales for your written advice may vary depending on factors such as barristers’ availability, the value and complexity of the deceased person’s estate, your financial needs and those of any beneficiary of the estate. However, claims under the Act must be made within six months of the grant of probate, so as a guide your written advice will be available within two to four weeks where possible.

Fees

We may charge fixed fees, which means that we will charge you a set amount of money for the written advice. Below we provide estimates based on the ranges of fixed fees for barristers in St Ives Chambers, where the deceased person’s estate is worth less than £300,000. All fees include VAT (where applicable). If we charge fixed fees, these may be towards the higher end of the range if you need a more experienced barrister and/or the deceased person’s estate is more complex. If the deceased person’s estate is particularly complex, your fees may also be higher than the estimate below. There are also likely to be additional costs for other necessary work such as conferences, attendance at court and paperwork starting at £175 + VAT per hour ranging upwards according to level of experience.

Written Advice Range of Fixed fees (estimates)
Written advice on making or defending a claim £500 – £3000 + VAT

Any additional work which falls outside the scope of the above will be discussed with you and fees agreed upon in advance.

All information is correct as of 1st August 2021, but fees are estimates only. For a quotation, please contact the clerks.  Please also contact the clerks if the deceased person’s estate is worth more than £300,000.

For further information please contact our clerks in Chambers.

To view the Bar Standards Board’s Public Access Guidance for Lay Clients, please click here.

To view our Terms of Business including information regarding fees, please click here.