Immigration work: chambers claims barristers are half the price of solicitors

A London chambers has launched a website aimed at encouraging individuals, businesses and even the government to save “a lot of money” by instructing its immigration barristers directly.

In one of the first efforts to actively market public access to the Bar, 1 Gray’s Inn Square has launched www.immigration-barristers.co.uk, which claims that barristers’ hourly rates are half those of solicitors.

“An average London solicitor’s hourly rate is approximately £350 + VAT,” it says. “The rate for a similar qualified barrister is £175 + VAT.”

Matthew Sowerby, the barrister who drove the project, told Legal Futures that the immigration team at 1 Gray’s Inn Square had decided “to go into the unknown together” rather than set up their own individual public access websites.

The site offers no specific guidance on which of the 19 featured barristers to choose. Profiles of each are on a loop on every page of the site, while a list of their names which appears on the other side of the screen randomly changes order every time a user clicks to a different page. The clerks will also help users choose the most appropriate member in the usual way.

Mr Sowerby said the instruction process usually begins with a fact-finding “screening conference”, at which the barrister will also determine whether the client needs a solicitor to carry out correspondence and other litigation activities that the barristers cannot. The barrister will not recommend a particular solicitor, although with other chambers setting up ProcureCos and alternative business structures on the horizon, Mr Sowerby said the set is “looking at the opportunities that liberalisation may offer”.

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    Readers Comments

  • Direct access should be encouraged. Next step: lifting that ancient rule which forbids barristers to sue solicitors for non payment.

  • The suggesion that this is ” one of the first efforts to actively market public access to the Bar”, is completely wrong. The Bar Public Access scheme has been up and running since July 2004. It is true that macro marketing at Bar Council level has been inadequate since 2004. But marketing of the scheme at the level of Chambers and individual Barristers has been good. The Access to the Bar Committee of the Bar Council (of which I am Vice Chair) has worked hard on this topic despite a tiny annual budget of less than £ 20,000. The Public Access Bar Association (which I chair), is very active in arranging events in this sphere. The level of public awareness of the Public Access scheme is substantial. The Courts and Solicitors could do far more to enhance that awareness, but the former remain solicitor-centric and the latter are hardly likely to damage their own commercial interests. The message that the public and business can save huge sums of money in fees is correct. I have one of the highest profile direct access practices which I conduct from Windsor Chambers and my fees are still between 3 and 10 times less than those of Solicitors. (For more information please see http://www.windsorchambers.com and http://www.paba.org.uk)


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