Members of our public access team cover many different areas of law and will provide legal advice and representation to cover all needs.
What is Public Access?
The term ‘public access’ refers to the method of members of the public being able to go directly to a barrister without having to involve anyone else, such as a solicitor.
This has not always been the case, as individuals once had to use a solicitor (or other recognised third party) first, who would then instruct a barrister for the client.
The Public Access Scheme was established in 2004, and one of the main advantages of the scheme is the potential for clients to save on legal costs as they no longer have to pay for a solicitor and barrister.
However, it’s important to note that without a solicitor, clients need to have more involvement in terms of performing document management, filing, etc.
How to Instruct a Barrister
Not every barrister is a public access barrister; some do not accept public access work. However, we do have some public access barristers here at St Pauls Chambers, who can be instructed in the following way:
Try to clarify the nature of your problem and what it is you want the barrister to do. Telephone chambers and speak to one of the clerks. They will inform you of what to do next; you may be asked to provide written instructions, setting out the factual background of your case and what it is that you want the barrister to do.
Alternatively, the barrister may decide that it would be appropriate in the first instance to discuss that matter with you on the telephone or at a preliminary meeting to decide on the best way forward. On some occasions, we can provide consultations by video link through Skype.
Proof of Your Identity
In certain circumstances, the barrister will be required by law to carry out certain identification procedures. These must be followed as soon as reasonably practicable after you have first made contact with the barrister.
If you are acting as an individual, you may be required to produce in person your current passport or other national identity card, or a new form of driving license (with a photograph) together with a recent utility bill, bank or building society statement.
If you are acting on behalf of a company, you will need to produce a certified copy of the Certificate of Incorporation, the latest accounts filed at Companies House and evidence that you are authorised to act on behalf of the company.
What Happens Next?
The barrister will have to decide whether your case is suitable for public access; this is usually done without charge. If your case is suitable for public access, you and the barrister will have to agree terms on which he or she is to carry out the work. Those terms will be set out in a client care letter which will be sent to you.
If you case is not suitable for public access, the barrister will tell you so. If you wish, he or she may recommend a suitable solicitor for you to instruct.
The Client Care Letter
The client care letter records the terms of the agreement between you and the barrister. It is a very important document and you must read it carefully.
The letter contains a description of the work to be undertaken, the basis on which you will be charged for that work, and he terms of the agreement between you and the barrister. If you are unclear about, or disagree with any of the contents of the letter, you must raise concerns with your barrister immediately.