Debt: direct access work for debtors encourage barrister to set up firm

The first barrister to become a partner in a legal disciplinary practice (LDP) is a consumer credit specialist in the West Midlands, Legal Futures can reveal.

Portia O’Connor, who practises from her own chambers in Birmingham, Pegasus Chambers, set up Pegasus Legal Research in West Bromwich in conjunction with solicitor Sameena Kauser.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority breakdown of LDPs provided to Legal Futures earlier this week records Ms O’Connor as the only barrister partner of an LDP, of which there are currently 198. Rather than waiting for the Legal Services Board to approve the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) rules on LDPs, Ms O’Connor applied for a waiver from the ban on becoming a partner after reading about the BSB making its decision to change the rules last year. City firm Penningtons last week announced that it was making up a barrister too (see story).

Ms O’Connor’s firm only opened last month. She told Legal Futures that she was motivated to do so after undertaking direct access work at the bar and seeing “some disadvantage” in not being allowed to prepare and send documents on behalf of clients because of the extra weight a letter from a law firm has.

The firm works exclusively on the side of debtors, which Ms O’Connor described as “one of those areas where you help [the client] and feel better straight away. When you say it happens to the best of us, you see the relief on people’s faces”.

She said it had been “so far, so good”, with one case already heading to the Court of Appeal. Ms O’Connor also intends to apply for a legal aid contract and expand into other related areas of law.

The BSB’s rules allow a barrister to continue in self-employed practice while also being a partner in an LDP, and Ms O’Connor said she will be taking this option.

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