What is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?
Traditionally, solicitors would deal with the ‘litigation’ aspects of a case, such as issuing proceedings, communicating with the other side and dealing with some hearings. Barristers specialise in advice and advocacy providing written or oral advice and attending hearings of all kinds. In the past, if you needed a barrister, you had to instruct a solicitor first and they would then instruct a barrister for you. This has now changed under the Direct Access scheme, which means that you can choose a barrister and instruct them directly to deal with your case, without needing a solicitor.
What sort of thing can a barrister help me with?
You can get help from a barrister for any legal problem you might face. If you run a business and have a contract or employment dispute, if you have a dispute with your neighbour or your employer, if you are experiencing a divorce, if you have a family member who lacks capacity to make decisions for themselves, if you are facing criminal charges or you fear you might be about to lose your driving license, or doorman’s license or taxi license. These are just a few examples. A barrister can help you with legal advice, with representation in court or any kind of tribunal including disciplinary tribunals at work or he or she can help you to negotiate a settlement in order to avoid the expense and stress of going to court.
What is Direct Access/Public Access?
Direct or Public Access allows members of the public or businesses to instruct a barrister directly, without needing a solicitor. This can be a more cost-effective way to conduct your case as you decide the work that you want the barrister to do. So, for example, you may wish to deal with the initial stages of the case yourself and then instruct a barrister just to do the final hearing at court. Or you may wish to instruct a barrister to provide you with a written advice about your prospects of success in a case before you issue proceedings. You meet the barrister, you provide all of the information and documents and you pay the barrister directly.
Why have I not heard about Direct Access before?
It has been possible for barristers to accept work directly from the public since 2004, however this was only in limited circumstances. The rules have recently been altered and barristers are now allowed to take instructions directly from the public in a wide variety of cases. Direct Access work is gaining in popularity for a number of reasons, but particularly due to the recent reduction in the availability of Legal Aid.
How do I choose a barrister?
You can choose a barrister by using our search engine by selecting the relevant area of law in our ‘Areas of Law’ search facility on the right of this page .
You will be able to view a short profile of each barrister that specialises in the area of law that you need help with. You can then click on a barrister to find out more about them and read their full profile, which will include the following:
- How long they have been qualified
- The geographical area they cover
- The type of work and areas of law that they specialise in
- Details of their experience
When you have chosen your barrister, you simply contact them using the ‘contact’ section in their profile. If you are not sure whether a particular barrister deals with the type of legal problem you have, you can simply ask them.
Will it cost me anything to make an initial inquiry with the barrister?
No. Once you have submitted your details via the ‘contact’ section, the barrister will contact you to discuss the case within 24 hours. The barrister will not advise you on your case at this stage – it is simply an opportunity for you to tell them what your legal problem is, so that the barrister can confirm whether they are able to deal with it for you. This will also be the opportunity for you to discuss the cost of dealing with your case, so that you can then decide whether you wish to instruct the barrister.
How much will my case cost?
There are no set fees for instructing a barrister on this website. This is something that you will negotiate with the barrister directly. The cost of instructing a barrister to advise or represent you will depend upon a number of factors:
- The type of case and the work that you want the barrister to do;
- The level of seniority of the barrister in question;
- If you are instructing the barrister to attend a hearing, you will usually pay a fee for the preparation and the first day (‘the brief fee’). You will then also pay for each additional day after the first day (‘the refresher’).
In some cases, you may be advised by the barrister to instruct an ‘expert’ to provide evidence about a particular aspect of your case; for example in a personal injury case you may need a medical report from a doctor. The cost of this will be in addition to the fee paid to your barrister.
The fees will usually be payable in advance of the work being undertaken by the barrister.
Please note that Legal Aid is not available for Direct Access work.
Will I ever need a solicitor as well?
In some circumstances, a barrister may form the view that it would be beneficial in your case to have a solicitor as well. The barrister would discuss this with you and may be able to recommend a solicitor.
Are the Barristers regulated?
Barristers conducting work on a Direct Access basis have to have completed Public Access Training with the Bar Council. All barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board, which requires barristers to adhere to a strict Code of Conduct when conducting their work. All barristers have professional indemnity insurance.
What do I do if I have a complaint?
We hope that you will be satisfied with the service that you receive from the barrister you instruct, however if you have a complaint this should first be raised with the barrister directly. Details of the full complaints procedure are set out in the client care letter which will be sent to you when you instruct the barrister.
Ultimately, it is The Bar Standards Board which investigates complaints against barristers. They can be contacted via their website or via the Legal Ombudsman on 0300 555 0333.
If you have a complaint about this website, then please contact the northeastbarristers.com team here.