In the latest example of a blurring of the two branches of the profession, public access barristers at a virtual chambers have joined forces with a debt adviser to provide fixed-fee representation to clients in financial difficulty.
ShenSmith Barristers has partnered with Debt Rescue Solutions, which provides pro bono advice for people being pursued by debt collection agencies and their solicitors.
Through the partnership DRS instructs barristers from ShenSmith when the case progresses to court, while preparing the cases and providing some pro bono advice itself.
Jonathan Maskew (pictured), director of ShenSmith, said that through public access, barristers can take on work which they might not have been able to before, by cutting the solicitor out of the relationship.
He said: ‘Someone would normally approach a solicitor who would tell them that their advice would cost at least a certain amount when the claim is only worth this amount. But our fees are amazing. People can afford representation through this route.’
He claimed that public access barristers can cut the costs of getting legal representation by more than two-thirds.
He said: ‘We are cheaper because of the scale of fees we have put together. The barristers work within the fixed-fee schedule. We are taking out the solicitor element of the process, which means there is no middle man.’
‘[Our representation] is not free but everyone knows what they are paying for before going through the court process.’
Maskew claimed that DRS particularly helps those who have been squeezed out by cuts to legal aid. ‘It is a route for access to justice for those who would normally not be represented for a whole range of reasons,’ he said.
Heenan Gray, co-founder and director at DRS said: ‘ShenSmith’s principles, ethics and their belief in the right for everyone to have access to justice at an affordable cost is truly what is needed for people to have proper legal representation at all stages of their cases.’