Study predicts more work for direct access barristers

Direct access-qualified  barristers can expected an increase in the volume of direct access work – instructions directly from members of the public - over the next few years. That is according to a survey conducted by Pye Tait Consulting on behalf of the Bar Standards Board and the Legal Services Board.

Key findings of the research include:

  • Just over half of the barristers registered on the public access scheme surveyed had undertaken up to five cases in the past year. While a relatively small proportion of barristers' overall caseload, it has increased markedly over the past three years.
  • Public access is most commonly used in family, chancery, employment, commercial and general common law.

The barristers surveyed considered that:

  • there have been relatively modest benefits for consumers so far, with respect to widening choice, improving timeliness of access to services and reducing costs, but the volume of public access work is expected to continue to increase over the next few years.
  • key barriers for consumers include lack of awareness of the scheme and the services that barristers are able to provide.  
  • the regulatory framework is largely effective in protecting public access clients. Some suggested that further clarity is required within the public access guidance and the associated training requirements.

The findings accord with the increase in enquiries, leads and instructions received by barristers registered with myBarrister, the leading direct access website. myBarrister Founder Ronald DeKoven said: “Awareness has grown about the benefits of instructing barristers directly, helping clients to achieve expert, cost-effective advice. We are seeing a marked increase in the number of people instructing barristers via myBarrister. I expect this trend to continue.”

Commenting on the findings, Ewen MacLeod, BSB Director of Regulatory Policy, said: “We are pleased with the insight the findings give us into the operation of the public access scheme for barristers. We will take them into account when deciding what, if any refinements should be made to the regulatory arrangements governing the scheme.”

LSB Head of Research and Development Steve Brooker said: “Benefits for consumers that are starting to emerge from this key market liberalisation measure - wider choice, improved timeliness of access to services and lower costs - are important and can be expected to grow as public access work grows.”

Direct Access Barristers - myBarrister