Barristers predict an increase in public access work

Public access barristers are expecting the volume of work obtained directly from clients to increase over the next few years as a result of the public access scheme which allows consumers to use barristers directly, without needing to instruct a solicitor or other intermediary.

These findings are taken from a survey of public access barristers undertaken jointly by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and the Legal Services Board(LSB).

This research provides a detailed picture of the current provision of legal services through the public access scheme, perceptions about the operation of the current regulatory arrangements and of the impacts of recent reforms. Key findings include:

  • Just over half of the barristers registered on the public access scheme surveyed had undertaken up to five cases in the past year. While a relatively small proportion of barristers’ overall caseload, it has increased markedly over the past three years
  • Public access is most commonly used in family, chancery, employment, commercial and general common law
  • The barristers surveyed considered that:
    • there have been relatively modest benefits for consumers so far, with respect to widening choice, improving timeliness of access to services and reducing costs but the volume of public access work is expected to continue to increase over the next few years
    • key barriers for consumers include lack of awareness of the scheme and the services that barristers are able to provide.  The public access route is also unsuitable for any client who would be unable to fill the role normally provided by a solicitor in terms of conduct of litigation.
    • the regulatory framework is largely effective in protecting public access clients. Some suggested that further clarity is required within the public access guidance and the associated training requirements.

Commenting on the findings, Ewen MacLeod, BSB Director of Regulatory Policy said: “We are pleased with the insight the findings give us into the operation of the public access scheme for barristers. We will take them into account when deciding what, if any refinements should be made to the regulatory arrangements governing the scheme.

LSB Head of Research and Development Steve Brooker said:

This joint research is an important stock take of where the public access scheme currently stands.  While representing a relatively small proportion of a barristers’ caseload it is, nonetheless, growing.  Benefits for consumers that are starting to emerge from this key market liberalisation measure – wider choice, improved timeliness of access to services and lower costs – are important and can be expected to grow as public access work grows.

The research was undertaken by Pye Tait Consulting and took place during December 2015 and January 2016.


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