A London barrister has launched an online referral service that passes instructions to public access barristers as well as solicitors.
Karen Taylor, head of Themis Chambers, runs , which filters the needs of potential clients – including the complexity of the case – through a series of questions.
Users are asked whether they want a solicitor, a “no win, no fee” solicitor, a public access barrister, or a conveyancing specialist.
The user is then presented with a choice of what the system considers the three most appropriate lawyers for their case (they can ask for three more if they are not happy) and the selected lawyer will then contact the user within 24 hours of accepting the case.
The site says subscribing lawyers will receive two “quality” referrals a month that will be “relevant” and “of added value to the subscriber’s practice”. Firms/barristers pay £399 + VAT a month.
Ms Taylor, formerly in-house at retailer Land of Leather, said the focus was on quality, rather than quantity.
She said her inspiration came from being a subscriber of other referral services “and getting calls from clients who weren’t in my area or had no case and simply wanted some free advice”.
The information would-be clients have to provide through the site allows staff to “assimilate the type of claim they’ve got”, and also puts off time-wasters.
Potential lawyers are chosen first on the basis of having their right specialism and then on location; there is no limit to the number of subscribers from a particular location.
Ms Taylor said the service would be of particular benefit to sole practitioner public access barristers who do not have clerks to help secure them work.
Barristers are prohibited from paying for work under rule 307(e) of the Bar Standards Board code of conduct, but Ms Taylor said introductions are just part of the advertising and marketing services which subscribers receive. She said the Bar Council had looked at other schemes that operated in a similar way and approved them.
Other referral services that recommend clients to public access barristers say they comply with rule 307 by being advertising and/or recommendation services.
A Bar Standards Board spokeswoman said individual barristers need to make a “judgement call” on whether sums they pay to such schemes amount to a referral fee or whether they are a “reasonable payment for advertising and administration for the purposes of rule 307(e)”.
Earlier this year, London set 1 Gray’s Inn Square launched a website encouraging the public to instruct its public access immigration barristers directly.