Samuel Okoronkwo

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How, When and Why: Can a Barrister Act on a Direct-Access Basis?

In this article, I will be explaining how, when and why a barrister may act on a direct-access basis. 


Under the terms of the Public Access Scheme, which was introduced in 2004, barristers are not allowed to take on work directly from clients. Unless doing so is in both the client’s interest and the interest of justice. 



In all public access cases, barristers must assess at all stages whether the case would be better served by the instruction of a solicitor. Barristers must also satisfy a number of conditions before they can accept direct access work. Subject to limited exceptions, before a barrister is permitted to accept public access work the individual must have: 


  • Practised for a total of three years following the completion of training
  • Attended a public access training course approved by the Bar Standards Board
  • Given certain notices which are required to be given by the Bar Code of Conduct


The first two of the aforementioned requirements may be waived by the Bar Council. These are likely to be waived if the applicant is a former solicitor or can demonstrate experience in an environment where public access to clients has been common. 


If a barrister meets the criteria or the requirements are waived by the Bar Council and takes on work under the Public Access Scheme, the client will be responsible for the case management and filing of documents concerning their file. This is the role a solicitor would ordinarily fulfil on the behalf of the client. 



If a client is willing and able to conduct litigation themselves and have complete control of their case without being reliant on or having to pay for a solicitor, they can instruct a barrister to act on a direct-access basis on their behalf. If your direct access barrister thinks that your case needs the additional assistance of a solicitor, they will also be able to advise you in this regard. 


A barrister instructed through the Public Access Scheme is not allowed to conduct litigation, i.e. issue proceedings or applications, acknowledge service, provide their address as the address for service of proceedings, file documents at court, serve documents on another party or issue notices of appeal, hence why the client must take over conduct in this regard. However, a barrister is able to advise a client on how to handle these matters. 


In all public access cases, barristers must stop acting for you if he or she considers that the case is no longer suitable for public access. However, the barrister may be able to assist if, as a consequence of no longer continuing to act for you, you will experience difficulties in relation to an imminent hearing. In public access cases, a barrister is also required to cease to act where the individual has formed the view that it is in your interests or the interests of justice that you instruct a solicitor or other professional person. 



A benefit of instructing a direct access barrister is that instead of paying for two different types of legal representatives, an individual can conduct the litigation on their own and seek representation at court hearings or for complex drafting or legal advice. Direct access barristers allow you to reduce the legal costs whilst increasing your involvement and control over your own case. 


At Mercantile Barristers our members have gained additional qualifications and can undertake both solicitor and barrister work. But, what are the benefits of working with Mercantile Direct Access Barristers? 


  • Your solicitor and your barrister are combined so you don’t have to go from one solicitor’s office on the High Street to barristers’ chambers at the Inns of Court. 
  • You only pay one legal advisor rather than two. 
  • You get the earliest possible direct access to the specialist – not just when a problem gets to Court.
  • You will normally know in advance the basis upon which the work will be charged, as well as your advisors view on likely prospects of success.


So, if you are looking for a direct access barrister, we can help. 

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