How to Find and Select a Barrister
For a vast range of legal matters, advice can be sought from a solicitor, who works directly with a client and can help with advice, legal paperwork and communication with other parties involved. However, sometimes more specialist advice is required, or a case must go to court, in which circumstances, a barrister is necessary.
Oftentimes, a solicitor will instruct a barrister, which means they seek their expertise on a specialist area of the law, or they will represent a person in court. Members of the public may also instruct a barrister themselves, provided the barrister is registered to do so.
If you know that your issue requires the help of a barrister, then continue reading as we discuss the steps to take when finding and selecting the right one.
Finding a barrister
Going through a solicitor
In many situations, a person needing legal advice will first enlist the help of solicitor, who may inform them that a barrister is needed. Solicitors will normally select a barrister on behalf of their client – this is usually someone who they have worked with many times before and who they believe will be best suited for the case.
Using a solicitor and a barrister is preferable for many people, especially in complex cases where additional assistance is required. The solicitor normally covers the transactional parts of the case, before it is passed on to the barrister.
When instructing a barrister without a solicitor, the client may have to do some of the legwork themselves, such as filing documents with the court, which can prove challenging. Moreover, not all work can be done by a barrister, so a solicitor is often necessary.
If you are unsure whether your particular case is appropriate for a Public Access barrister (one who works directly with clients, without a solicitor), then contact the barrister or their chambers to discuss your circumstances. You may be advised that it is best to enlist the help of both a solicitor and a barrister for your case.
It is against the rules for a barrister to act on behalf of a client through Public Access when they know the case is not suitable for it.
Hiring a barrister yourself
If you wish to approach a barrister directly for advice or representation, rather than going through a solicitor first, then there are several factors to consider. First, you must select a barrister who is allowed to take on Public Access (sometimes referred to as Direct Access) clients, as authorised by the Bar Standards Board. Not all barristers are authorised for Public Access, as additional training is required.
To begin your search, use the Bar Council’s direct access portal, which allows you to search the database for qualified barristers in specific locations and with particular practice areas.
It is important to also check the Bar Standards Board’s Barristers’ Register, which lists every barrister who is currently allowed to practice in England and Wales. Any barrister who has been disbarred or is not registered will not appear on the database. Bear in mind that in order for a barrister to give legal advice, they must have a valid practising certificate issued by the Bar Standards Board. This must be renewed once a year to remain valid.
Within the Barristers’ Register, you can find out key pieces of information regarding any barrister, including the year they were called to the Bar, which barristers chambers in London or elsewhere in the UK they may belong to, and if any findings of disciplinary misconduct have been imposed upon them.
Along with the Direct Access portal, there are other legal directories you can use to find a suitable barrister for your case, such as the Legal 500 and the Chambers & Partners Guide to the Legal Profession.
Choosing the right barrister for you
There are several elements to take into consideration when choosing a barrister, including their areas of specialism, services provided, and, of course, fees.
Areas of specialism
If you have decided to go down the Public Access route and instruct a barrister yourself, the most important aspect when choosing a barrister who is right for your case is to check their areas of specialism. Barristers practice in specific areas of the law, which means you should look for one who has the particular expertise needed to properly handle your case.
You can search online for a chambers which specialises in the type of legal work you need and then contact the Senior Clerk directly to find an appropriate barrister for your case.
It is important to note that if you approach a barrister directly, you cannot apply for legal aid, which is why many people choose not to use Public Access. However, some may find that instructing a barrister via Public Access can save them money, as they are only paying for the services of one party (the barrister), as opposed to two parties (a solicitor and a barrister).
Whilst there is no typical fee that barristers charge, they are all obliged to disclose information on their fees, including whether their costs are based on a “fixed fee”, or if they charge for services by the hour.
With Public Access barristers, you can find out what they charge for a particular service, making it easier to do your research and compare different barristers’ costs, which will no doubt be a major factor influencing your choice. It is up to you to decide whether a fee quoted to you is reasonable, or if you wish to continue looking elsewhere.
A barrister’s fees are usually determined by their experience level, how complex your case is and the length of time it will take to work on. All costs should be agreed upon before any work begins.
Legal issues are a delicate matter and, understandably, you will want to work with a barrister who has an excellent level of client service, particularly if your case is quite sensitive. As such, spend time making enquiries and finding someone who is approachable, professional, a good communicator and whom you are able to develop a good rapport with.
As with any other service, carrying out some research and utilising online feedback platforms with reviews from past clients is recommended and can often help in narrowing down your search for a suitable barrister.