Direct Access Barristers On The Rise

by melanieart on May 31, 2012

Direct access barristers are barristers that do not need a solicitor to instruct them. Instead, members of the public can directly contact the barrister. This ruling was passed in 2004, and provides a much more efficient legal process for both barristers and clients.

Direct access barristers can conduct all manners of work, from family law work to employment law, traffic law, immigration law and much more. For example, if you have an issue with child custody after a break up, you can now instruct the barrister directly, with no need for a solicitor and no need for two sets of legal fees. This can make for a smoother process which only involves the solicitor if the solicitor really is required.

Now, the Bar Standards Board is going to remove two major restrictions to the scheme. This comes after the number of barristers who are eligible for direct access work rises. Figures show that 1,383 barristers finished public access training courses during 2011, which makes the total number of barristers qualified 4,143.

The first restriction to be removed is the rule that stops a client who could qualify for public funding to instruct a public access barrister. This is something that has hindered many clients in the past. The consultation said, “However, the BSB considers that the regulatory risks are not sufficient to outweigh the importance of the client’s choice of legal representation…Relaxing the prohibition would also provide greater access to justice for clients who find themselves without access to legal aid solicitors.”

The second restriction to be lifted is the rule that stops barristers who have less than three years’ experience in this type of practice to from accepting work through public access. Previously, barristers who were perfectly qualified and experienced but with less than three years’ experience could not be contacted through the scheme.

The consultation went on to say, “We take the provisional view that allowing clients who are eligible for legal aid to make an informed decision about whether or not to opt for public access representation will improve access to justice whilst protecting and promoting the interests of clients. We hope that removing the three-year practising experience requirement will also enhance consumer choice by providing consumers with as wide a pool as possible from which to select their representation.”

About the author

Melanie writes for Advise Me Barrister, a team of fully trained direct access barristers providing legal advice in the UK.

melanieart

melanieart

melanieart

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  • The restriction preventing direct access for matters that could be publicly funded has been a major barrier in criminal laww.

    There are many people who do not want the palaver of applying for legal aid knowing that they will have to pay a hefty contribution or simply do not want the ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ over their finances.

    Providing that the barrister is live to the possibility of legal aid being available and so advises surely the choice should be up to the individual.

    A good move and not before time.

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