Solving the SAR puzzle: Navigating personal data requests with Briefed

BriefedBy Legal Futures Associate Briefed

Every organisation globally houses personal data, encompassing details like names, addresses, phone numbers, and more specific attributes such as race, religion, or political opinions. Whether documented on paper or stored digitally, individuals possess the right to access this information about themselves through the submission of a Subject Access Request.

“By law, people can ask you for a copy of any information that’s to do with them. It might be saved on your system, but if it’s about them, it’s their personal data, and they have a right to see it. If they ask you for a copy of it, by phone, in person, or in writing, they have made a ‘subject access request’ (SAR), and you need to take action.” – Information Commissioner’s Office (2023)

So, what challenges do SARs present to barristers & chambers?

Much like a puzzle, SARs can be difficult to correctly piece together, particularly in conjunction with staying GDPR compliant throughout. Processing these requests can involve sifting through heavy loads of data in order to locate all information relevant to the individual.

They must provide copies of all data that is held on the individual, often having to provide duplicates of all documents, emails, and any other types of communication that contain the individual’s personal data, redacting any information made in reference to other individuals – which can be quite a resource on time.

In addition, with reviewing such an amount of data comes the possibility of handling sensitive information – chambers and legal organisations must ensure that confidentiality is maintained, and that data is not mishandled.

Encapsulating this process, chambers and legal organisations have just one calendar month to fully complete the process, facing enforcement notices, fines and prosecution if they fail to respond within the given timeframe.

SARs can place immense stress on the clerks and chambers dealing with them.

Case Study: College Chambers x Briefed

This was exactly the case for College Chambers. A highly respected chambers in the South of England, were faced with a request for a client involving three barristers, interlocutory hearings and a five-day trial, leaving senior clerk, J-P Schulz with a mammoth task ahead of him.

“[I was] keen to approach it in a cautious and compliant manner,” stated Schulz.

“I had an idea, and of course, I’d received training on SARs, but until you get one, you’re never quite sure what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and I wanted to approach it in a very cautious way.

“I didn’t want to breach any confidentiality…that was my biggest concern.”

J-P came to Briefed for assistance in processing the request and throughout sifting over 4,000 documents, he received extensive guidance and assistance from our in-house barrister, Chris Kelly via countless phone calls and online meetings. Chris and the Briefed team were able to work with the College Chambers senior clerk, building a profile of the SAR and offering expert advice whenever needed.

“We assisted with outlining processes, timeframes, what was disclosable, what was not, and were there any exemptions we could rely upon.” – Chris Kelly, Briefed Barrister

J-P and College Chambers were able to successfully submit the SAR in a timely manner, ensuring it was dealt with efficiently and remained in compliance with GDPR

Relieved and grateful for the guidance provided by Briefed, J-P expressed his gratitude, stating that without it, he, “wouldn’t have known definitively how to handle the request and could have potentially breached confidentiality.”

What can Briefed offer?

We provide SAR navigational assistance services to chambers, businesses, and organisations, guiding them in processing intricate requests for individuals. Our in-house barristers outline processes, timeframes, and the disclosability of requested data. Additionally, we identify applicable exemptions.


If you would like to find out more about our SAR processing service, visit our website here or contact us on 028 9621 6345.


Associate News is provided by Legal Futures Associates.
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