In an historic move, barristers can now receive instructions direct from members of the public following a change in the Bar Councils code of conduct.
The Department for Constitutional Affairs granted the Bar Council approval to remove the blanket ban on direct public access. However, the move could dent solicitors coffers, as there will be little need for them to act as the conduit to the bar.
Anthony Speaight QC, chairman of the Bar Councils Access to the Bar Committee, said: Until now, a client who wanted advice from a barrister not only had to pay the barrister, but also had to pay a solicitor for passing on the instructions. Now, unnecessary duplication of legal fees can be cut out.
The reform represents an extension to the longstanding principle allowing professionals, such as accountants and surveyors, to side step solicitors and instruct barristers direct. So far, 160 professional bodies have been granted licenses to do this.
The new scheme does not apply to criminal, family and immigration barristers, who must still receive instructions from solicitors.
Should a lay client wish to issue proceedings following advice from counsel, they must then refer the matter to a solicitor to conduct the litigation, or manage the matter themselves.