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”.