What if I qualify or may qualify for public funding?
9. If you are eligible for public funding (also known as “legal aid”) and wish to take advantage of this funding, a barrister should advise you to approach a solicitor. This is because barristers cannot do legal aid work unless they have been instructed by a solicitor.
10. If you are not sure if you qualify for public funding and you would like to talk to someone in more detail about getting legal aid, you should contact a solicitor who does legal aid work. They will be able to tell you about the legal aid arrangements for a civil case eg when you are in a private dispute with another individual or organisation, and for a criminal case, eg where a crime may have been committed. It is unlikely that a barrister will be able to carry out the means-test required to establish whether you would qualify for public funding. You can find out more information on the Gov.UK website, where you will also find a legal aid calculator for legal aid relating to civil cases: https://www.gov.uk/community-legal-advice
11. Whether or not you qualify for public funding, you might like to consider whether you have any insurance policies that might cover your legal fees, or if the fees may be paid by someone else, for example a trade union.
12. You may not wish to investigate whether you qualify for public funding, or if you qualify for legal aid you may prefer to instruct a barrister directly. In this case the For more information contact: the Professional Practice Team on 020 7611 1444 3 barrister should ensure that you fully understand the implications of choosing to instruct them privately and the likely costs which you will incur by not accessing public funds. It is likely that the barrister will ask you to confirm in writing that you fully understand the implications of your decision, for example the client care letter might contain a paragraph indicating that you have made an informed decision not to use legal aid.
Is a barrister obliged to accept public access work?
13. A barrister may choose whether or not to accept a case that is suitable for public access work. However, a barrister may not refuse to accept instructions: a. On the grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship, sex, gender re-assignment, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, disability, age, religion or belief or pregnancy and maternity. b. In the case of advocacy work, on the grounds: i) that the nature of the case is objectionable to him or her or to any section of the public; or ii) that your conduct, opinions or beliefs are unacceptable to him or her or to any section of the public.
14. If the barrister decides to accept your instructions, you will be sent a client care letter that, amongst other things, describes the work to be undertaken, sets out the terms and conditions, how much the work will cost and how to complain if something goes wrong.
15. Throughout the case, the barrister remains under an ongoing duty to consider whether a case remains suitable for public access, and they must refuse to continue to act on a public access basis if it is no longer suitable for them to do so.
How do I make use of the public access scheme?
16. To use the scheme, you would have to instruct a barrister yourself. Further details of how to do this are given in this guidance.