The freedom for barristers to accept direct instructions from lay foreign clients without having to undertake public access training is rapidly coming to an end.
The new Bar Standards Board (BSB) Handbook for the first time applies the public access rules to work either from a lay foreign client or a lay client in England and Wales in relation to a foreign matter.
However, the BSB said that in order to ensure that there is adequate time for barristers to undertake the new public access training, it has granted a “period of grace” of six months for those affected by this change.
It said: “This means that, in relation to foreign work only, where barristers are instructed by a lay foreign client or a lay client in England and Wales, they may continue to do so without having completed the public access training where it is in the client’s best interests to do so.”
However, after 30 June 2014, all barristers must have undertaken the public access training prior to accepting instructions for this type of work.
The BSB has made several changes to the public access rules in recent months, widening the scheme to include clients who might be entitled to legal aid and barristers of less than three years’ call.
The training requirements were also overhauled. Course content has been enhanced and an element of formal assessment has been introduced. In addition, public access barristers with less than three years’ practising experience now need to keep a log of cases as an aid to their learning.
Those who have already taken the training will either have to do a top-up course or apply for a waiver by October 2015.
A small number of public access barristers may be eligible for a waiver from the top-up training, but they must apply for this. The BSB said that those most likely to be eligible for a waiver will be able to demonstrate extensive experience of undertaking public access work and legal aid cases involving vulnerable clients, and the associated knowledge and understanding required.