Public Access (sometimes called Direct Access) allows members of the public to go directly to a barrister without instructing a solicitor or anyone else. Barristers are specialist lawyers who can help you put your case across in writing or by speaking in court on your behalf.
Traditionally, if you had a legal problem, you needed to contact a solicitor first. This solicitor would analyse your case, help you approach a barrister and ‘instruct’ them (appoint them to prepare your case and represent you in court). Public Access bypasses this process and allows you to take control of what legal assistance you receive. However, public access barristers are not competitive with solicitors, who provide different services; we will advise you if you need to take your case to a solicitor.
In public access cases, the barrister’s role essentially remains the same as when they are approached by a solicitor or intermediary. Through the scheme, you can use the barrister for advice, representation and document drafting. There are some limits on the types of work that a barrister can do and you will need to carry out these additional tasks yourself.
The main benefit of the public access scheme is that it can save money, as you only need to pay for a barrister and not a solicitor and barrister. It also allows gives you access to high quality advice and a potentially quicker legal process. Overall, it means you can choose the level of support, advice and advocacy you need and allows you a certain level of control over the legal process.
What can a Public Access Barrister do?
Our barristers provide:
· Advocacy – We can represent you in Trials, Court hearings and in negotiations, mediations and arbitrations.
· Negotiation – We can negotiate on your behalf and attend investigative hearings where appropriate
· Litigation advice – We can advise you on what Court Forms to use, Letters to write and negotiating positions to take.
· Advice – We can give you legal advice on law and procedures at any stage, including after hearings if you want to appeal.
· Document drafting – We can draft legal documents for you, such as a will or statement claim
· Correspondence – We can draft and send letters on your behalf
· Witness statements – We can help you prepare a statement from information you or another witness has provided.
We are not allowed to:
· Litigate – This means you will need to issue the claim at court, sign off the papers filed in the case and handle the correspondence
· Instruct an expert witness on your behalf - create witness statements, interact with witnesses in court.
· Handle any clients’ money
What will my role be in my Public Access case?
When pursuing your case under a Public Access scheme, you take on tasks usually performed by a solicitor and represent yourself in court. This is called being ‘Litigant in Person’ (LIP) and carries various responsibilities. You must be able to deal with certain administrative tasks independently, such as gathering papers together and evidence in support of your case so that your barrister can perform the work you have asked of them. You will also need to file documents with the courts (such as case summaries and expert reports) and correspond with other parties (with guidance from your barrister).
If your legal case is taken to court or tribunal, you will be the named person on court records and will have documents sent directly to you.
Is my case suitable for Public Access?
Suitability for the Public Access scheme depends on the complexity and nature of each individual case in line with the Bar Council’s Code of Conduct. The Bar Council is the professional body that regulates barristers. Many cases are suitable for public access, so it is important you contact a public access barrister to discuss your case and circumstances.
There are several broad reasons why your case may not be suitable for public access.
· It would not be in your best interest to pursue legal action without a solicitor due to the nature or complexity of the case. Your case requires a solicitor.
· The administrative responsibilities, normally performed by a solicitor, would be too difficult or unsuitable for you to carry out yourself.
· Your case requires daily action on the Barrister’s part. This is unsuitable for public access as barristers are often in court and unable to respond immediately.
· The barrister feels that they will not be able to carry out the work you wish them to do.
· You are/could be eligible for legal aid (public funding) and would like to access this. Public funding must be secured by a solicitor and cannot be used for the public access scheme. Our barristers have your best interests at heart and will tell you if we believe you should investigate your public funding eligibility.
Each individual barrister can choose whether they wish to take on a particular case based on their experience and capabilities. By law, all barristers cannot refuse to accept instructions based on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation or any personal beliefs under the Equality Act 2010.
Throughout the process, your Hampshire Family Law barrister will continue to monitor whether your case is suitable for public access. Before the case begins, the barrister must tell you if they believe that your case may become unsuitable for public access at any point. They will tell you what work is suitable for public access and the point at which your case will become unsuitable. If your circumstances change, your barrister will advise you to instruct a solicitor.
As a client, you should also consider your ability to cope with being Litigant in Person and the day-to-day administration and correspondence tasks (outlined in the section above) that come as part of this public access scheme. At Hampshire Family Law, we will always talk to you realistically about this role at our preliminary consultation, so talk to us if you are concerned. If you feel you will require greater support, you should consider talking to a solicitor.
If you would like to discuss the suitability of Public Access for your case, contact us and arrange a free 30 minute consultation with the barrister of your choice. If you’re unsure how to go about this process, read our guide to instructing a Hampshire Family Law barrister.
Costs and funding for public access
All Hampshire Family Law public access barristers charge a fee for each piece of work completed, rather than charging hourly or on a fixed fee basis. Each fee will be quoted and agreed in advance of the work being completed so you can easily keep track of your costs. This also means you only pay for what you need, choosing the services your barrister provides.
For more information, visit our Fees page.
Please be aware that the public access scheme is not available to those using legal aid. Legal aid, or public funding, is where the government covers legal costs in serious cases where the client is unable to pay themselves. If you believe you could be eligible, please take a look at the government website for further information and consider approaching a solicitor.
Confidentiality and compulsory disclosure of information
It is our duty to keep your information confidential and secure. This means we will not tell anyone the details of your case and it will not be passed on to third parties. Every communication with your barrister will be kept private.
In some exceptional situations, a lawyer (barrister or solicitor) may be required by law to disclose information to governmental or other regulatory authorities. This can be done without first obtaining your consent or telling you that they have made a request for this information.
Imogen met with Jane*, a married woman caring for a grandchild, who wanted advice following her separation from her husband. She had been to mediation and it had failed. She wanted to know what her options were before committing to instructing a particular barrister on her case. During their meetings, Imogen and Jane discussed how […]Read more