The Public Access scheme allows members of the public to directly engage the services of a barrister, instead of having to go through a solicitor first.
In the past, you would always have had to instruct a solicitor who would then refer you to a barrister for specialist advice and to represent you in court. The rules have now changed, and there are many situations where we can help you with legal problems directly, without your needing to go through a solicitor first. This is called Public Access, and can make legal proceedings much more affordable.
Please note, however, that not all barristers do Public Access work, and some legal problems are not suitable for Public Access. The first step is for us to gather some basic information about you and what you want to achieve.
Your questions answered…
“I am thinking about approaching a Public Access barrister…”
- Please read all of this page.
- Complete our initial enquiry form.
- We will then contact you to let you know whether or not your case is (or might be) suitable for Public Access and, if so, to arrange an initial consultation with an appropriate barrister.
- This barrister will explain the process and their fees, and set out the scope of work we are able to undertake on your behalf. You can then decide what work, if any, you would like them to undertake.
“Who can instruct a Public Access barrister?”
Any individual or business can now instruct a suitable barrister directly – for advice, contracts, drafting, help with disputes or court cases, advocacy and all manner of legal issues.
“Which barristers offer Public Access work?”
Not every barrister offers Public Access work, and those that do are not obliged to take on your case; they have the right to refuse to act on your behalf – especially if they do not feel that your case is suitable for Public Access. If they do accept your case, they will give you a client-care letter setting out the terms of engagement and the scope of work agreed.
“What are the benefits of Public Access?”
Benefits largely relate to cost and time:
- Instructing a barrister yourself can be much less expensive.
- Since you can do as much or as little of the preparation as you want yourself, you can make significant savings and have more control over your case.
- Because of the way barristers’ chambers are set up, our overheads are usually much lower than law firms’.
- Going directly to a barrister can speed up the litigation process, since you cut out any unnecessary communication.
“Is my case suitable for Public Access?”
Most cases can be undertaken under Public Access, but some types of cases are especially suitable, such as:
- Individuals’ disputes involving breach of contract, family, inquests, wills or employment
- Small and medium-sized businesses’ contractual or employment disputes, or when seeking advice on non-contentious commercial issues (such as drafting standard terms & conditions, or advising on company restructuring where redundancies may need to be considered).
“Are any cases unsuitable for Public Access?”
Cases may not be suitable for Public Access if they are likely to be very lengthy or involve very detailed legal correspondence; for example, some criminal proceedings, or cases involving foreign jurisdictions or multiple expert witnesses. If, at any time, we think that you would be better represented by a solicitor, we will tell you — and may be able to put you in touch with an appropriate professional. In such circumstances, we can continue to act for you through your solicitor.
“What can my barrister do on my behalf?”
A barrister can advise you on the law and practical matters; draft letters and legal documents; assist in negotiations; and attend court hearings. We can help you run your own litigation by doing as much or as little of the preparation of your case as you would like (subject to some limited exceptions, set out below). This puts you in control of your costs, and the more you can do for yourself the more you save while still receiving specialist advice.
“Is there anything a barrister can’t do for me?”
A barrister can’t undertake litigation on your behalf. This means that they can’t physically send or receive letters for you, or send documents directly to the court. However, they can draft the contents of the documents and letters. Barristers can’t hold money on your behalf. There are very few cases that would be affected by these limitations; if necessary, we can refer you to a solicitor who can deal with these situations.
“Do I need to have any legal knowledge of my own?”
No. You will, however, have to be able to undertake your own administration and be fairly well-organised.
“What will it cost?”
Our charges vary, depending on the type of case and the experience of the barrister you instruct. Charges will vary from around £125 to £175 (plus VAT) per hour, and for many cases we can provide a fixed-fee quote which may reduce the hourly rate and offer better value. If we think we can help, we can sometimes offer an initial consultation free of charge.
“How can I be sure I’ll get someone with enough skill and experience to help me?”
In the first instance, we will pass your case to a barrister with the relevant qualifications and experience. All barristers have to undertake special training if they wish to accept Public Access cases, and they have a duty to tell you if the work you’re asking them to do falls outside their area of expertise. Barristers are all fully trained and qualified, are all members of the Bar Council, and are all regulated by the Bar Standards Board. You have the right to complain, if anything goes wrong, to the Legal Ombudsman (provided that you do so within a 12-month time limit.)
“What do I do next?”
If you’d like to know more, or to see if your case is suitable for Public Access, please complete our initial enquiry form.