Barristers urged to grab litigation opportunities after “modest” beginning

Print This Post

By Legal Futures

10 November 2014


Robertson: artificial divide

Just 129 barristers have so far taken up the opportunity to conduct litigation since the restriction was removed in January, it has emerged.

Bar Standards Board (BSB) vice-chair Patricia Robertson QC said the “modest numbers” could be because barristers are unsure of the process, are uncertain whether the change would be good for their business, or because they lack the support systems in chambers to enable it to work.

Speaking at Saturday’s annual Bar conference, Ms Robertson said critics feared the relaxation would lead to fusion and “dilute the USP [unique selling point] of the bar”.

She argued that direct access had not done so and she could see no reason why conducting litigation would either. But she stressed “it is for the bar” to ensure that in taking up the opportunities provided by the BSB it does not “dilute the USP” and does retain trial skills.

The service offered by barristers, she said, is a “critical component” in meeting the need for people to get affordable legal advice. Allowing barristers to conduct litigation, she said, removed the “artificial divide” that had prevented direct access barristers from conducting all aspects of a lay client’s case – a distinction that clients “must have found baffling”.

The change enabled barristers to offer a “one-stop trial lawyer service” or to allow the client to deal with some aspects of their case and instruct a barrister as they need to “slice by slice”, Ms Robertson added.

“Solicitors have been able to compete with the bar doing advocacy since 1994 – 20 years on the Bar remains trial specialists. It is now time to let the Bar compete in providing a full service across the market,” she said. “I’m optimistic it will be good for the public and the Bar.”

Amanda de Winter, one of the first barristers to gain litigation rights and who set up direct access firm Barristers & Co, said the move was “a real opportunity for the Bar”.

“It is a gift to level the playing field in light of the advocacy work being done by solicitors,” she said, telling colleagues: “Just do it – it’s easier than you think.”

While there may be difficulties in a traditional chambers set-up, she said it was up to individuals to work out how to do it, but she said the application process was not too difficult, the BSB was helpful and insurance premiums remained unchanged.

Tags: ,



Leave a comment

* Denotes required field

All comments will be moderated before posting. Please see our Terms and Conditions

Legal Futures Blog

Be careful you do not leave anything behind: will we see the end of chambers?

Charles Feeny

Experience of practice by digital support suggests that working practices will become much more informal and spontaneous, not requiring support by specific entities or even contractual arrangements. This is likely to be particularly true of the Bar, which is or should be a profession focusing on individuals. The future of the Bar is more likely to resemble a library as seen in Scotland and Ireland – albeit an electronic library – rather than the traditional chambers structure.

January 18th, 2017