Solicitors should see public access barristers as an opportunity rather than a threat, the chairman of the Bar Council has told the Gazette, amid concerns over tensions between the two branches of the profession.
Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said that while public access has increased competition, it also has brought new work to solicitors. For example she noted that barristers can now refer direct access work to solicitors.
She said: ‘There will be cases where a solicitor will take the advocacy brief and others where a barrister will take the solicitor’s brief. But I see it as presenting more of an opportunity for both.’
Doerries said: ‘I still see the traditional model as working very well, but there are certainly areas and cases where having the ability to select and choose can be an advantage for the client and can be more cost-effective.’
Her comments come shortly after research by the Bar Standards Board showed that although the volume of public access work is expected to grow, barristers are wary that promoting themselves directly to clients could create tensions with solicitors.
Doerries was more cautious about predicting other changes at the bar. She expects bar-regulated entities to continue to have a ‘relatively low’ takeup, with the bar regulator now needing only the lord chancellor’s rubber stamp to begin licensing non-lawyer-owned alternative business structures.
And although the bar regulator has said the bar needs to do more to reform ‘outmoded’ work practices, Doerries maintained the bar is already a modern profession.
‘It is highly competitive both in terms of quality and of cost. The bulk of the profession is self-employed and inherently competitive and it is a profession that has adapted a lot and is well-positioned to adapt to [further] change,’ she said.