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 Direct 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.
Direct 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 Direct 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 Direct Access.
What happens next?
If the clerks decide that your case is suitable for Direct 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.
For further information please contact our clerks in Chambers.
Click here to take you to the Bar Council guidance about Direct Access.