Red Bar Law has become the first start-up alternative business structure (ABS), offering clients early access to barristers and costs savings of at least 30%.
It is the brainchild of solicitor John Esplen, formerly a partner at London and Hertfordshire firm Barnes & Partners, and business consultant Hatice Suvari.
It uses a panel of more than 120 barristers for fixed-fee advice. Ms Suvari said the firm’s “main role” is to negotiate the fee and arrange advice from a barrister “from day one”.
She said the barristers are “quite willing to do a lot of the work themselves”, but any work not done by them is handled by the pair in-house at Red Bar, with any overflow going to freelance solicitors.
The key to the service is seeking advice as soon as possible from the barrister to bring the matter to a rapid conclusion, she emphasised, rather than waiting to bring counsel in down the line even when you know early on that they will be needed.
Though technically not direct access, Red Bar is the latest venture that aims to capitalise on the combination of the Bar’s expertise and lower cost base, following the likes of Stobart Barristers , Riverview Law  and Advise Me Barrister .
Ms Suvari said they have been able to negotiate good rates from the barristers because Red Bar pays them within 24 hours of delivering their advice; the firm’s website says it can obtain a barrister’s opinion from as little as £75 per hour. Among examples cited on the firm’s website are a divorce with a small asset base, which it put at £10-12,000, compared to other solicitors charging £15-20,000, and a large piece of litigation, at £35-40,000 from Red Bar, compared to £50-60,000.
The firm handles family, civil litigation, professional and clinical negligence, employment, inheritance disputes and property disputes.