Direct access: how it works

What is direct access?

Direct access is also sometimes known as “public access” or “direct public access”.

It used to be the case that members of the public could only access the services of a barrister (also known as “counsel”) by retaining a solicitor first, who would then instruct the barrister.

Since 2004, members of the public have been able to instruct barristers directly, without needing to use a solicitor as an intermediary.

The barrister must have completed an approved direct access training course and be registered with the Bar Council for direct access work.

The advantage of the direct access system is of course that you can access the barrister’s specialist expertise, without needing to instruct a solicitor, thereby saving time and money.

Your role

It is vital to understand that if you instruct a barrister on a direct access basis, the barrister will not be doing the job of a solicitor – you will!

If you are involved in litigation, you will be acting as a litigant in person: the barrister does not “go on the court record” as acting for you, as a solicitor might do. You will be the point of contact for correspondence, you will be responsible for administrative tasks such as organising your own papers, and you will be responsible for taking steps in litigation such as issuing proceedings or serving documents.

Because you will be carrying out that role, I am required, at the outset, and throughout my involvement in your case, to consider whether it is in your best interests for you to instruct a barrister in this way. If, for example, I consider that you do not have the time to handle correspondence, or if I think that the case is too complex for you to run without the assistance of a solicitor, I will tell you, and may be able to assist you in finding a suitable solicitor to instruct.

How Direct Access can save you money

Instructing a barrister on a direct access basis could save you a great deal of money by comparison with instructing a solicitor. How much you save will depend on how much work you can complete yourself and how much assistance you require from the barrister. You may save money because of any or all of these factors:

  • most obviously, you can get the assistance of the barrister without paying for the solicitor to instruct the barrister: you are cutting out the middleman;
  • you agree in advance the price of each piece of work to be done, so you can keep firm control over the overall cost;
  • you will be doing much of the work for which a solicitor would ordinarily charge you: examples include writing your own letters, preparing your own documents for disclosure, or drafting your own witness statements, preparing and copying your own bundles; of course, if you want, I can provide you with guidance on how to go about these tasks;
  • much of the cost of litigation is racked up by solicitors sending correspondence to each other which does not really advance the case; with direct access, you only pay for the specific work which you ask your barrister to do for you; each task, and the cost of it, will be agreed with you in advance;
  • some tasks can be done for you by the barrister rather than by a solicitor; examples including drafting an important letter, or a statement of case for the court, or instructions to an expert; a barrister is often cheaper than a solicitor of equivalent seniority, because barristers have much lower overheads than solicitors, and because if you instruct a barrister with specialist experience, he may be able to do the work more quickly.

Services I can provide

The short answer is that I can provide any services which a barrister normally provides, but not those which a solicitor normally performs: those will be your responsibility, although you can ask me for guidance on how to do them. In each case, it is necessary to agree in advance what work is to be undertaken, and the cost of it.

I cannot advise you on your eligibility for legal aid or make an application for you for legal aid; information on the availability of legal aid is publicly available;

I will not take on the role of sending and receiving all correspondence for you. You can however instruct me to draft any particular item of correspondence for you, and it is common for me to draft, for example a Pre-Action Protocol Letter of Claim, a Letter of Response or a complaint letter;

I can draft or amend statements of case for you, such as a Claim Form, Particulars of Claim, a Defence or Reply; however you would have to file such documents at court or serve them on your opponent yourself;

I can draft applications for you, although you would have to issue them at court and serve them on your opponent;

I can draft instructions to an expert and review and revise any report; you would need to send the instructions to the expert, to be responsible for his fees and to serve the report;

I can assist you with drafting witness statements; however if I am to represent you at trial, professional obligations impose some restrictions on the extent to which I can elicit information from you to draft your witness statement;

I can advise you on what documents you would need to disclose, although you would have to prepare and serve the disclosure statement yourself, as well as carrying out any copying required;

I can draft orders and court directions for you;

I can represent you at mediations or at court hearings, including directions hearings, costs hearings or trials.

How to instruct me

To enquire about instructing me for a piece of work, please contact me or my clerks in chambers at 4 New Square.

These are the steps in the process:

  • Contact one of our friendly clerks. They will ask you for some basic information about your case and will discuss my availability and suitability for your case. They can give you information about my charging rate;
  • I offer a free consultation, for up to 30 minutes, by telephone or in person. This is not for me to give you advice. It is to discuss information about your case, whether it is in your bests interests to instruct a direct access barrister, what help you require and timescales. The clerks can put you through to me or set up a time for this consultation;
  • if you are content to proceed, we then send you an agreement (known as a client care letter) to sign to make clear matters including what work I will be carrying out, when I will do it, and what my charge for it will be;
  • once the agreement has been signed, I can then carry out the work required. If additional work is required, that will be the subject of a further agreement, again making clear the scope, timing and cost of the work.
Legal Notice
The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice.
No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it.
Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.
All original material on this site is © Stephen Innes and may not be produced without permission.

Stephen James Innes
Bar Council Number 41453
VAT registration number 782715995
Complaints policy available on request from 4 New Square