Public access barristers can be instructed directly by members of the public or businesses to provide legal advice or representation in court.
Public access barristers are normal barristers with an extra legal qualification. Before a barrister can undertake public access work, he or she must have completed a special course. Once qualified, they can provide legal advice and representation directly to members of the public, without the need for a solicitor involved. Most areas of law are covered by public access barristers, and they appear before most courts and tribunals across England and Wales.
What do barristers do?
Barristers provide expert legal advice and are specialist advocates. Being a lawyer, they can draft legal documents for clients, both general legal documents (e.g. wills or contracts) and litigation documents (e.g. claim forms, particulars of claim and defences), provide legal advice where there is a claim or legal dispute (e.g. what your chances of success are), and advise and represent clients in court or before tribunals.
What can public access barristers do?
Public access barristers are able to do the following things:
- draft routine legal documents for example, leases, wills, deeds or contracts;
- draft formal litigation documents, such as a statement of case (i.e. a document setting out the claim or defence) or witness statements based on information you or your witnesses provide;
- give legal advice to assist you with your problem. This can be done before or after formal legal proceedings are issued and could relate to the merits of your claim or your defence, the strength of the evidence and what further evidence, including expert evidence, could be obtained. Your barrister can advise you on how to prepare documents for trial and on how to appeal if required;
- represent you in court or before a tribunal.
What can't public access barristers do?
Barristers are not allowed to do certain things. A client may be expected to do some of these things themselves:
- barristers are not allowed to actually issue proceedings or applications in court on your behalf, although of course they can represent you once the claim or application has been issued. The barrister can draft these documents for you and advise you on how to issue at the court office. What the barrister is not allowed to do, and what you will need to do, is to attend the court building with the claim or application documents (and the issue fee) and have the proceedings formally issued;
- barristers are not allowed to collect evidence personally. For instance barristers cannot contact/find potential witnesses to see what evidence they are able to give. The barrister can advise you on how to go about collecting evidence and contacting witnesses, but you will need to gather this evidence yourself. the barrister can take down your evidence and write your statement for you;
- barristers cannot instruct an expert witness for you. A barrister can advise you as to which expert is suitable and draft the appropriate letter of instruction for formally contracting with the expert, but you will have to send this letter and agree to pay the expert yourself;
- a barrister is allowed to use his or her notepaper (or chamber's notepaper) to send letters on your behalf but only in certain circumstances, closely linked to barrister's normal work. In any event, a barrister can always draft letters for you and send them to you to adopt. You then send the barrister's letter to the other side but in your own name;
- barristers are not allowed to take responsibility for handling their client's affairs generally. Barristers are instructed for particular legal disputes, claims or issues, rather than instructed permanently to deal with whatever issues arise day to day;
- barristers are not allowed to take responsibility for the general day to day management of a client's case, or to handle client's money. Barristers will provide detailed advice and guidance to help you manage the day to day running of your case. The address for service of documents will be your address rather than the barrister's address.
What if I qualify or may qualify for public funding?
- If you could be eligible for public funding, a barrister has to advise you to approach a solicitor. It is unlikely that a barrister will be able to carry out the means assessment required to establish whether you would qualify for public funding. Further, at present, barristers are not able to apply to the Legal Services Commission for public funding on your behalf. If it appears that you may qualify for public funding, therefore, a barrister has to advise you to approach a solicitor with a franchise from the Legal Services Commission to investigate this possibility.
These rules are imposed on barristers by The Bar Standards Board, the body which regulates the profession. Consequently, barristers are not able to waive these restrictions. A full and comprehensive explanation regarding public access can be found by clicking here.
Once again, it is important to note that the role of a barrister remains the same. it is the access to a barrister which has been opened up to more people.
Because the role of barristers has not changed, the client takes on a more extensive role than he would do if he were instructing a barrister through a solicitor. Since there is no solicitor acting between the barister and the client, the cilent has to do some of the routine work traditionally undertaken by a solicitor (under the watchful guidance of the barrister). Of course, whatever work you do yourself will be work you will not be billed for and so, potentially saving you money.