Half of barristers trained to bypass solicitors from 2015

Topics: Advocacy,The Bar

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A bar-commissioned study has found that clients will be able to instruct half of all barristers directly by next year, jeopardising a huge amount of work presently channelled through solicitors.

The second Barristers’ Working Lives report, published by the Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board, shows the number of barristers that clients can access directly will comprise almost 50% of the bar by the end of 2015.

One in five barristers (20%) plans to complete new public access training. That will swell the ranks of the bar trained to work directly with clients to nearly 7,500 -  almost half the entire bar - from the current 4,400.

The study also showed that one in seven barristers (14%) plans to apply for authorisation to conduct litigation, further edging out solicitors.
The second biennial survey, which provides a snapshot of the bar over the two years from 2011 to 2013, also reveals the impact of public funding cuts.
Of the self-employed barristers in criminal practice who responded to the survey, 67% reported that their earnings had fallen between 2011 and 2013.
Some 58% said that they were not satisfied with their job and were either planning to change or considering their options. And almost a fifth (18%) stated that they intend to leave the profession and work elsewhere.

Some 78% of criminal barristers and 77% of family barristers who said that they were considering a change in employment status gave legal aid cuts as a reason.
Despite a reported increase in workloads, 39% of barristers engaged in pro bono work and 36% of all barristers were involved in other charitable legal work.

The survey also showed that most barristers (63%) are male, and one in ten is from a BME background; statistics that have not changed  since 2011.

BSB chair Lady Deech QC said an increase in the number of barristers people can access directly is ‘good news for consumers’ as it will increase choice and potentially bring down costs.

‘Allowing these barristers then to conduct litigation will help take the administrative burden off members of the public – who may lack the time and expertise to do this,’ she added.
Bar chair Nicholas Lavender QC said: ‘As a result of the government’s cuts to legal aid, we should be concerned about what this means for the future of the profession, of the criminal, family and civil justice systems and of the public they serve.’

Readers' comments (47)

  • Bring it on! Barristers have no idea how and no desire to work directly with clients.

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  • I look forward to seeing them at a police station on a Sunday Morning. I think not.

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  • I trust that the Bar Mutual Fund is getting geared up for a tsunami of claims against it, not as a result of lack of legal knowledge but the absence of normal practising procedures.

    For example, when did you ever see Counsel make an attendance note..?

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  • Totally agree with Anonymous at 12:35.

    The costs effectiveness of direct access will soon also be over. The number of professional negligence claims against barristers carrying out non-advocacy work may rise. This will in turn mean that their PII may rise. The end result will likely be higher fees charged to the client.

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  • Doubtless Counsel will still expect any correspondence with or documents from their clients to be same-day couriered direct to their home address and for such documents to be organised into paginated bundles.

    For too long, solicitors have protected the bar from the vile public but now I cannot wait to see the precincts of the Temple full of criminals looking for their barrister's chambers so that they can go and abuse him or her and ask them for cigarrettes and money for the bus fare home. Counsel is welcome to it!!

    Great thought Lady Deech QC - allowing barristers to conduct litigation will "take the administrative burden off members of the public". And it will bring down costs. I take it from that statement that barristers will not be charging to conduct all this litigation, other than their usual charges for opinions, conferences, briefs and advocacy etc.

    The Bar Mutual has no clue what is about to hit it. Barristers have no clue how to protect themselves from the blame culture of the public if things don't go their way. Soon it will go through the same shortfall as SIF but I doubt that young barristers with low earnings will be in a position to pay their contribution to bail out the fund. Not with all the new administration costs they will incur plus increased staffing to answer the phone and do the photocopying that the solicitors will not already have done for them.

    Yes, I can't wait - I am out of it!!

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  • yawn. no different than a solicitor getting higher rights of audience- doesn't mean the solicitor is all of a sudden equipped to do 5 trials a week on top of his case load.
    there's good reason why the solicitor/counsel relationship as regards file handling has, and always will, stand the test of time and these fads.

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  • The Bar Mutual only offers £500,000 cover so hardly an equal playing field!

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  • The last Direct Access counsel I was against was an absolute hoot, and most enraged at my lack of obligingness in photocopying for him as if I were his instructing Solicitor. It was quite instructive to see how the Bar's usual courtesy melted away under that kind of stress.

    And the one before that was a dream too, completely at sea, no idea which way was up, because no kindly Solicitor had spent hours trying to shake some kind of sense out of her client's chaotic instructions.

    Welcome to the party.

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  • Good luck with that.

    I trust that barristers will have to comply with something akin to the SRA rules and achieve various outcomes, no? Got your client account at the ready?

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  • Instead of reporting on this why isn't the Law Society doing something about protecting Solicitors and the work we do?

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