Direct access barristers at a virtual chambers are offering advice through ‘video surgeries’ in a bid to become the first port of call for legal services.

The surgeries allow clients to talk to barristers through a window on the chambers website, with the intention that they will then instruct the barrister directly. The aim is to offer people free legal advice for up to 15 minutes.

Jonathan Maskew, director of ShenSmith, the virtual chambers which is running the video surgeries, said that while there was ‘always a need’ for solicitors to be involved, he wants to ‘reinvent the position of barristers’ through direct access.

‘Clients take comfort from getting advice early,’ he said, saying this is why clients should instruct a barrister before getting a solicitor involved.

More than 100 potential clients have expressed an interest.

Maskew said the surgeries are open to everyone, but added that the main clients ShenSmith is targeting are businesses worried about the ‘clock ticking’ when they go through a solicitor.

‘Businesses often take a commercial view that they are not going to spend money on advice. If we can bring the time line back and put barristers at the front, it will not only reduce the time line, but it will also reduce the cost,’ he said.

Barristers at ShenSmith have already held two surgeries on employment law and are planning to run as many as six more. Maskew said he is in discussions to get other chambers involved.