Barristers offering public access work are not planning to ‘flood the market’ – but the relationship between the two professions will become more fluid, the new chairman of the Bar Council has suggested.

In an interview with the Gazette, Maura McGowan QC, the second woman to head the 15,000-strong profession, said that public access will be attractive to overseas clients, particularly law firms that just want advice.

It will also make the bar more accessible and cost-effective and help the publicly funded bar by making it easier to deal with fees, she said.

But she insisted that its scope is limited and barristers are not setting themselves up as ‘alternative solicitors’.

Responding to the suggestion that barristers lack the ability to support clients throughout the litigation process, McGowan drew an analogy with solicitors conducting advocacy.

‘Ten years ago we might have said that solicitors can’t do advocacy – they don’t have the skill or experience to take a case from the first visit to the office all the way through to the end of a trial. Well, they obviously do.’

Similarly, she said, there are some cases where a barrister has the ability to see a case through from beginning to end.

However, she added: ‘I recognise there are areas that I might not be able to do, and, where that’s the case, I’m more than happy to refer it back, just as solicitors are more than happy to say when something is beyond my experience or expertise.’

She added: ‘We’re not going to flood the market, [but] there will be much more fluidity in the strict relationship between barristers and solicitors.’

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