Until recently, a member of the public could not directly instruct a barrister to represent them. All barristers were appointed to cases via solicitors, and members of the public would have to pay for both a solicitor and a barrister, if a barrister was needed in their case. The vast majority of work undertaken by barristers still comes about in this way and there are many advantages to it.
However, following the introduction of the Direct Access scheme, some barristers are able to take instructions directly from members of the public, without them having to instruct a solicitor in addition. Barristers must undertake additional training and accreditation in order to accept instructions on this basis.
If instructed by the Direct Access scheme, a barrister can:
- Provide legal advice and opinions
- Assist in the drafting of legal documents
- Assist in the drafting of letters and other documents during the case
- Represent you and act on your behalf in court
Direct Access enables those who feel able to conduct their litigation without the assistance of a solicitor to have access to a specialist lawyer and advocate to guide them through the process and, in particular, to represent them in the event that the case comes to court.
Visit our case studies page for some example of how our barristers have assisted clients on a direct access basis.
How direct access works
Step 1 – Get in touch
When you first contact us, you will be asked if you know which barrister you would like to instruct. If you do not know, then we will assist you to find a barrister with the right expertise and experience for your case and for your budget.
Before you first visit us at 1KBW, we will ask you to fill out a short and simple questionnaire providing your contact details and some basic information about your case and what it is you require your barrister to do. The questionnaire can be completed online in advance if you wish. This will quickly enable us to formulate with you the most effective way of approaching your case and how to get the most from your barrister.
Step 2 – Come to meet us
Each one of our barristers may do things slightly differently, but it is likely you will be asked to come to meet the barrister for a short initial consultation. It is unlikely you will be charged for that meeting. It enables your barrister will try to find out more about your case and discuss with you the best options for working with you.
It may be that after the initial meeting, the barrister’s opinion will be that your case is not suitable for Direct Access, and we may suggest that you contact a solicitor before instructing a barrister. If you wish, we will be happy to help you choose the right solicitor for your case and for your budget.
Step 3 – Agreeing our terms
Once we have sufficient information with which to assess your case, we will contact you to provide a fee quotation, agree a turnaround time for any written work, and to confirm that barristers’ availability to attend any court hearing or meeting. Please note that we may be unable to take on your case. If so, we will inform you promptly.
Our barristers will work on fixed fees, which depend on the complexity of the case or what you require the barrister to do for you. The fees will be set out clearly in our client care letter and are payable in advance by bank transfer or by way of cheque or debit/credit card telephone payment. After the work is completed we will send you a receipt with our VAT number.
Step 4 – Working with us
Our barristers are friendly and approachable people. We hope to work with you efficiently and professionally. It is imperative that you trust your barrister.
All of our barristers will do their best to manage your case and respond to you promptly. It is likely that in order to keep your costs down, your barrister will suggest the best form of communication and the appropriate level of communication between you. You will be responsible for the day to day management of your case, not the barrister, so it unlikely that a high level of communication will be required.
Barristers are specialist court advocates, which means that much of their day is spent in court or away from chambers. As a result, most barristers will prefer to communicate with you by email rather than over the telephone. It is also easier for both you and the barrister to keep a clear record of your communications with each other.
For more information about Direct Access:
The Bar Council publishes up to date guidance on their website.
The Bar Standards Board also produces guidelines.
There are many people who feel able to conduct a lot of litigation themselves, for example collating documents, filling out forms, and even drafting letters or statements. However, many people feel unable to conduct court hearings themselves effectively because of the highly specialist legal and advocacy skills required. Also, many people feel that whilst they can manage much of the litigation themselves they still need the advice of a specialist lawyer on complex points of law and procedure.
Direct Access enables those who feel able to manage the litigation to have complete control of their case, without being reliant on a solicitor and without having to pay for a solicitor. You can feel secure in the knowledge that you will have access to a specialist lawyer and advocate to guide you through the process and to represent you in the event that the case comes to court.
Ultimately, this will save you time and money. You will be responsible for organising the case documents and writing letters and carrying out other tasks that a solicitor would ordinarily do. You will be reducing your costs whilst increasing your personal control of the case. You will completely control the cost of your case because our barristers only work on fixed fees which will be paid in advance.
In England and Wales, there are two primary types of lawyer, namely barristers and solicitors. Neither of them ‘outrank’ the other. They just have different skillsets and different expertise in certain aspects of litigation. Most barristers and solicitors have a chosen specialism and the barristers at 1KBW specialise in family law.
Solicitors tend to work for firms or in partnerships, and are hugely experienced in the running of litigation. This generally means giving legal advice, drafting applications, witness statements and other legal documents and engaging in correspondence during any litigation.
Barristers tend to be self-employed individuals, albeit they often group together with other barristers of a similar specialism, pooling their resources to occupy the same building (“chambers”) and to pay administrative staff and so on. 1KBW is the name of this chambers which houses 57 barristers.
Unlike solicitors, who generally run litigation on the day-to-day basis, barristers are usually brought in to offer specialist legal advice or drafting – and in particular to be the advocate in court. It is this courtroom advocacy for which barristers are so highly regarded.
When a case has to go to court and will be heard by a judge, many solicitors choose to ‘instruct’ a barrister. This means that they choose to work in partnership with a barrister for that that case, with the solicitor running the litigation and the barrister responsible for the advocacy in court, as well as providing specialist legal advice in the case. The client pays the solicitor for their services and also will need to pay the barrister for the additional expertise that they will provide.
Barristers instructed on a direct access basis are instructed not by a solicitor, but by the lay client directly, if they feel able to conduct the day-to-day running of the case without a solicitor.
The three areas of family law which are most appropriate for direct access instructions are finance cases, private law children cases and injunction cases, in particular because legal aid is no longer available for most people in those types of case. As a specialist family law chambers, 1KBW houses some of the most experienced practitioners in the country in these areas of law.
In finance cases, our direct access barristers can assist in cases involving:
- Sharing the family finances after, or during, a divorce
- Payments of monthly maintenance for spouses or children
- Payments of school fees
- Drafting of pre-nuptial agreements
- Disputes between unmarried couples as to ownership of property
- Financial provision for the children of unmarried couple who have separated
- Variation of maintenance payments
- Disputes surrounding the divorce itself
In children cases, our direct access barristers can in assist in cases involving:
- Disputes as to where children should live, and with whom
- Disputes about how often a child should see each parent
- Applications to move abroad with a child
- Applications to relocate to another part of the country with a child
- Applications to prevent certain travel abroad
- Disputes over a child’s schooling, name, upbringing, religion and medical procedures
In injunction cases, our direct access barristers can in assist in cases involving:
- Applications to prevent violent or threatening behaviour
- Applications to prevent the visiting of a certain location
- Applications to prevent someone from living in a particular property
- Applications to regulate the shared use of a property
Silk 2009Call 1984
Frank Feehan QC
Silk 2010Call 1988
Anna McKenna QC
Silk 2017Call 1994
James Roberts MCIArb