What is Direct Access?
Direct access enables you to work directly with a barrister rather than going to a solicitor first. The barrister can continue to represent you throughout the case without the need of you instructing a solicitor unless it appears that a solicitor is needed in your case due to factors such as the complexity of issues.
Working directly with a barrister at court tends to be appropriate where you are able to handle the administrative side of things yourself. You remain technically a litigant in person and are responsible for the day-to-day progress of your legal case whilst working with a barrister. The court papers and correspondence will be sent to you rather than to a legal advisor , however your barrister will still be able to advise you about the implications of the documents you receive, and guide you in your responses Direct access is a good way of concentrating your financial resources for a court hearing that you might otherwise be conducting yourself, giving you a better chance of getting the outcome you want.
What are the costs?
Sima accepts Public Access instructions on a privately funded basis only and offers a fixed fee to make the costs more affordable for clients. Sima likes to be as open and upfront about our prices as possible. It is her policy is to take payment in advance of undertaking any work. Funds are payable by bank transfer or by credit/debit card. All fees stated are exclusive of VAT unless otherwise indicated.
The fees for Public Access work will vary depending on your budget and the nature of the matter which you need assistance with. The costs will also depend on
- The complexity of your case
- The amount of work involved and the urgency of the work
- The type of hearing
- The amount of papers you have, as this affects the reading time that is required before conference and the level of preparation that needs to be done for the hearing, as Sima will need to be fully appraised of all the relevant facts and circumstances in order to present the case in the most effective way.
The quote provided will either be on an hourly rate or fixed fee (brief fee/ refresher) basis, subject to what is most appropriate for the case and cost-effective. A reasonable quote will be provided taking into account all the circumstances of the case estimating preparation time and hearing time required for your case. The current rate of VAT will be added to all fees (unless exemptions apply).
Sima’s clerk will be able to discuss whether your case is suitable for public access and will be able to provide you with information on what specifically is required in order to prepare a meaningful estimate, after which a quote for the work will be provided the same day. Please note the provision of a quote is not an acceptance of instructions. An acceptance of instruction is fixed upon the signing of a public access agreement. Where a fixed price for a piece of work is provided, the fee will not exceed the amount that has been quoted without prior client authority.
What will the barrister do for me?
Once you have instructed Sima to represent you, she will work directly with you and will be able to give you advice, represent you in court, negotiate on your behalf, and assist you with drafting documents and correspondence. Sima can be instructed to
- Give you written advice about your case, after reading the documents
- Give you advice in conference – that is, face-to-face, on the phone or by Skype, after reading the documents; or
- Represent you either in court at a hearing, or at a settlement conference or a mediation.
Once instructions have been received and a fee agreed you will receive a client care letter and terms of engagement which you must sign and return. It is important that you fully read and understand these documents as they form a contract between us.
Is my case suitable for Public Access?
Not all matters can be dealt with through the Public Access route and in such circumstances, it may be more appropriate to refer you to a solicitor (for example, Public Access is not available if your matter is funded by Legal Aid). If your case is not suitable for Public Access you will as soon as possible.
Public Access Guidance
Direct Access Barristers are regulated by the Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board and have strict professional rules by which they abide, giving you the benefit of consumer protection and the backing of a professional conduct regime built up over centuries.
If you’d like more information about how a barrister could work with you directly, you can look at the public direct access page on the Bar Council’s website or the guidance notes prepared by Bar Standards Board, by clicking the links.
Every professional client and every lay client is entitled to make a complaint about the service provided. If you wish to make a complaint, in the first instance please contact the Senior Clerk to Chambers in writing. Acknowledgement of receipt of your complaint will be sent within two working days.
The complaint will then be referred for action to the Heads of Chambers. The Head of Chambers will try to resolve your complaint as soon as possible and in any event within 28 days of its receipt. If a response takes longer than 28 days they will write to you explaining why and saying when they expect to be able to deal with the matter. In any event, they will try and resolve your complaint within 56 days of its receipt at the very latest.
If we fail to deal with your complaint to your satisfaction you may then refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.
The Legal Ombudsman asks that you go to him as soon as you can; and in any event you must contact him with your complaint within 6 months of the date of our written response. There are circumstances where the Legal Ombudsman can receive complaints up to six years from the act/omission complained of, or three years from when the complainant should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint. He can be contacted in the following ways:-
- By telephone on 0300 555 0333 (calls charged at a local rate)
- By email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Via his website www.legalombudsman.org.uk
- By post to PO Box 15870, Birmingham, B30 9EB
- The services of the Legal Ombudsman are free for consumers
The Legal Ombudsman will assess your complaint and either deal with it himself or, if in his view it involves possible issues of professional misconduct, he will refer it to the Bar Standards Board to deal with. If he does refer it to the Bar Standards Board, both he and the Bar Standards Board will contact you to confirm this. (“Professional misconduct” is when a barrister has breached the Code of Conduct for barristers, for instance by misleading the court or by acting dishonestly. You can find out more about the Code of Conduct on the website www.barstandardsboard.org.uk).
If you wish to complain about a barrister who is not working for you or who has not worked for you, you should contact the Bar Standards Board directly within 12 months of the problem occurring, either by telephone or via their website