What is Public Access?
The Public Access scheme (sometimes referred to as “direct access”) allows members of the public to instruct a barrister directly. In the past it was necessary for clients to use a solicitor or other third party in order to instruct a barrister.
What are the benefits of Public Access?
Barristers are experts in the area of law they specialise in;
You only pay one legal advisor rather than two;
Barristers are self employed and have low overheads. This allows competitive fees to be offered.
You get direct access to specialist legal advisors and advocates with a wide choice of counsel;
Fee estimates in advance - our barristers can often give an indication of how much the work will cost in advance and allows you to control your budget.
Flexible billing arrangements - we offer a mix of fixed and capped fees to ensure absolute certainty of cost.
What areas of law are suitable for Public Access?
Public Access is available for all areas of work that a barrister can do. Members of Chambers have a broad range of expertise. If the barrister considers that your case would benefit from the involvement of a solicitor, he or she will tell you so. A barrister may choose whether or not to take a public access case.
How much does Public Access cost?
This depends on the seniority of the barrister you instruct, the type of law involved and the work that you instruct the barrister to undertake. A barrister will usually agree a fixed fee which is payable in advance.
What is the difference between the services offered by a solicitor and a barrister?
The historic difference between what a barrister does and what a solicitor does has become less obvious over the last few years. However, barristers specialise in providing expert legal advice, advocacy in court and the drafting of documents.
By law, barristers are not able to provide some of the services that solicitors offer, such as conducting litigation, and they are not allowed to handle client money. However, the Bar Council does have a special bank account (the Escrow Account) which can hold client monies on account for a barrister. Your barrister will advise you if they consider that anything you want done is something which only a solicitor can provide.
Does a barrister need special training to take public access work?
Yes. Before a barrister can accept public access work they must satisfy number of conditions. Subject to limited exceptions, before a barrister is permitted to accept public access work they must:
• be properly qualified by having more than three years’ standing;
• have undertaken a “public access” training course approved by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) through which they will demonstrate that they have the necessary knowledge, understanding and skills to conduct such work; and
• have notified their regulator (the BSB) that they wish to offer public access services.
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.
Proof of your identity
In most circumstances the barrister will be required by law to carry out certain identification procedures. These must be followed as soon as reasonably practicable after you have first made contact with the barrister and it is likely that this will happen after you make the initial contact described above. Whether these procedures apply and, if so, how they should be followed, need to be considered by the barrister when you first make contact.
Where the procedure applies, the barrister will require satisfactory evidence of your identity – that is, proof of your name, date of birth and current address. The type of evidence required will depend on the circumstances. For example:
a) If you are acting as an individual, you may be required to produce in person your current passport or other national identity card or a new form of driving licence (with a photograph) together with a recent utility bill, or bank or building society statement.
b) If you are acting on behalf of a company, you will need to produce a certified copy of the Certificate of Incorporation, the latest accounts filed at Companies House and evidence that you are authorised to act on behalf of the company.
c)To carry out the procedures properly, the barrister may well have to have a meeting with you. You will be told what to bring to that meeting. The barrister is required to take copies of the documents you bring and to retain those copies for 5 years.
Can I instruct a barrister directly when I have already instructed solicitors?
Yes, 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 they should accept your instructions. However, the fact that you have retained solicitors is not in itself a reason for refusing to accept your instructions; nor may the barrister contact your solicitors without your permission. However, there may be cases, eg where your case involves existing litigation, where a barrister will refuse to accept your instructions unless you give them permission to contact and liaise with your solicitors and you also give your solicitors the necessary permission to provide information to the barrister.
Please do not send original document to Chambers. If originals are required at Court or for some other meeting please bring these with you when you attend.
Chambers cannot accept responsibility for any originals that are lost whilst being conveyed to or from Chambers or whilst in our care.
If you have a complaint about your barrister, then in the first instance, you should try the complaints system maintained by your barrister or his or her Chambers. Information on how to do this should have been provided to you in the initial client care letter. If you are not satisfied with the handling or outcome of your complaint by your barrister or his or her Chambers, then you can contact the Legal Ombudsman
Where can I find out more information about Public Access?
If you have any questions regarding direct access please do not hesitate to contact Chambers.
Further information is available on the Bar Council website