Exclusive: Barristers4U aims to sell advantages of direct access to public

Billy Bot: now live

A new brand selling direct access barristers to the general public for consumer law matters has gone live, Legal Futures can reveal.

Barristers4U, which promises to offer consumers upfront fixed-fee quotes, is using the platform created by Clerksroom Direct to offer the services of more than 1,000 direct access barristers.

Initial marketing tests have seen consumers looking to instruct counsel for education law and motoring offence matters in particular.

It claims to be different from other direct access portals through a significant investment in marketing and a “serious pipeline of joint ventures with national consumer-facing brands” – although there is no more detail on this at the moment.

Users can select barristers online or through a helpline. Founder Ashley Griffiths, a technology entrepreneur backed by unnamed private investors, said “marketplace comparisons and initial pay-per-click testing shows that we are comparatively cheaper than using a solicitor’s firm”.

He added: “Today’s launch is the result of considerable planning in terms of gathering trusted partners around us; from the unprecedented number of barristers to regulated technology platforms, payment processes and other exciting consumer engagement tools that will go live in a few months.

“Combined, this unique collaboration of skills and partnerships will help our customers get certainty on their legal fees, access highly skilled legal experts and obtain legal services how, where and when they want them.”

Stephen Ward, chief executive of Clerksroom, described Barristers4U as “the largest and most significant marketing partner that we’ve had to date”. It has 85 in total.

“The biggest concern they’ve had is whether we can cope with the volume,” he added. “We believe we can.”

Mr Ward said that though Clerksroom Direct has 1,000 barristers on its books, some 6,000 across the profession are able to conduct direct access work and he was sure the Bar could handle a high volume of cases.

Meanwhile, the first, basic iteration of Billy Bot, the ‘robot junior clerk’ being created by Clerksroom, has gone live.

At the moment, Billy is a simple chatbot. He can ascertain whether a member of the public needs a barrister or mediator, take basic details, put the matter into Clerksroom’s case management system, and then pass it on to a human clerk to follow up. Lawyer users are pointed straight to a human clerk.

Mr Ward said testing of an interface with Clerksroom’s case management system, Meridian Law, would start at the end of the month. This would enable Billy to talk to a solicitor, carry out a conflict check, check diaries and even quote for fees – he has a database of 15 years’ worth of fees to draw on.

The Bar Standards Board’s policy on the fair allocation of work will also be built into his system, Mr Ward added.

A diagram of what Clerksroom hopes Billy can do by the end of the year can be seen here.

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