John Sizer of Public Access Clerk
John acts as an in-house clerk to Direct Access Barristers (DAB). John has 25 years experience as a Barrister's clerk. Using his experience and knowledge John will attempt to find you the right DAB to meet your budget, and the needs of your case.
Useful information when instructing a barrister directly via Public Access.
Whilst John Sizer at Public Access Clerk (PAC) will source specialist barristers and manage your case, (encompassing much of the note below) you might find it helpful to read the content if you wish to instruct a barrister via Direct Public Access (DPA). Do take a look at his website for more information; www.publicaccessclerk.com
The most important thing to remember when seeking the advice of a barrister is to understand they are not necessarily going to tell you what you want to hear. Choose your barrister carefully and don’t be influenced by price alone. Look at their specialisms and experience. Be wary of barristers with endless areas of diverse expertise. The law is a massive subject and constantly changing. Where possible choose a barrister whose main practice centres around the field of expertise you require.
You may think your case is very strong and it may well be, but the duty of the barrister is to advise you on the merits and the negatives of your case. They have to be objective and advise or represent you in accordance with the law related to your action and in your best interest. Whether you take heed of that advice is entirely up to you.
It is sometimes very easy to become highly emotive about your case as it may ultimately affect your livelihood or family circumstances. However, it is very important that you keep an open mind and remain objective when you seek a barrister’s advice. If you are convinced your case can’t fail whatever the advice, you may be better off representing yourself.
For a barrister to advise you properly they must be furnished with appropriate paperwork. The more concise, ordered and relevant the papers are the better. Don’t bombard the barrister with disorganised paperwork or e-mails with large capital letters which express your strong opinions or rhetoric. Keep to the facts and tell it how it is, including any evidence or correspondence that may not always be positive to your case. If your case does proceed, any such information is likely to emerge at some point, so it’s better the barrister knows about such issues from the outset rather than being caught out later.
A barrister is not obligated to take a public access case so it’s important that your papers are organised and presented properly. Provide an informative letter of instruction starting from the beginning. Remember, you may know your case backwards, but if someone is looking at the matter for the first time, make it as easy to follow as possible and keep to the point. A chronology of events is a good place to start. You pay a barrister for their legal knowledge and expertise, not their admin skills! Some chambers will require you to fill out an information form, usually found on their website.
If you are having problems or need help putting your papers together employ the services of a paralegal or similar. (See PAC Website). Hourly rates are very reasonable and a lot cheaper than a solicitor. They will be familiar with legal administration and will help you put your instructions together.
Where possible have a budget in mind before you start. Barristers represent excellent value compared to most solicitors as their overheads tend to be lower. Hourly rates vary, but a junior barrister with 1 to 15 years’ experience is likely to be charged out between £100 and £300 plus Vat per hour depending on the area of law they practice in. Be prepared to pay for at least 3-5 hours work for initial advice, but most barristers will accommodate a realistic budget if it is offered.
Be aware that advice given by any barrister will involve a certain amount of preparation. Just because you have a 1-hour meeting booked doesn’t mean you will be charged for 1 hours work. Time will need to be spent preparing the advice or representation and the duration will depend on the size and complexity of the case.
In most cases any work carried out on a DPA basis will be based on a fixed fee, which will depend on the barrister’s estimation of how long the piece of work will take. This fee will be agreed beforehand and unless further information comes to light this fee will be adhered to in most circumstances.
A client care letter based on Bar Council guidelines will precede any work carried out, making it clear what the parameters of the work to be undertaken are. These letters must be countersigned to record your agreement before any work can commence. Fees are paid in advance and ID must be produced in the form of a driving licence or passport as well as one or more recent utility bills.
If you are unsure about fees at any stage, or if work is being carried out by the barrister outside the remit of the client care letter, contact PAC (if using their service) or if independently, the barrister or their clerk straight away to clarify the position.
If you are dissatisfied with the advice or service given by a barrister, a complaints procedure contained in the client care letter can be followed. Be aware that any complaint made is likely to result in the barrister having to cease work on your case immediately while it is investigated. Make sure you choose an appropriate time to make a complaint that won’t be detrimental to your case.
One of the downsides to instructing a barrister via DPA is that, unlike a firm of solicitors they are self-employed and in most circumstances work alone without assistants, secretaries etc. This means they may not be as easily accessible to you all of the time. They may be involved in a lengthy trial or case abroad which will narrow down the time they may have available to correspond with you. Most good barristers will have several matters ongoing at one time and any of those might involve urgent attention at short notice, possibly delaying work on other ongoing cases.
With that in mind, it is worth establishing the availability of a barrister, particularly if you have a future hearing fixed that you might want representation for. Don’t take advice from a barrister who might not be available for your hearing.
Most DPA instructions involve advice on the merits of your action and a barrister is quite within their rights to tell the client at any stage if he or she feels the services of a solicitor are required. Whilst some DPA barristers have a license to conduct litigation (in the way a solicitor does) many more do not. In many cases, a barrister will be happy to proceed and represent you going forward. However certain areas of law and more complex cases don’t lend themselves to this type of representation and may well require solicitor input.
- Keep an open mind and expect objective advice
- Present your papers in an orderly way keeping to relevant facts and information
- Have a budget in mind and allow for the cost of preparation time
- Funds, ID and agreement to the barrister's terms must be in place before work can start
- Be aware of the practical side to DPA instruction and it’s parameters
If you wish to contact me, please email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blogpost is for information purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice because it does not consider or take into account your own personal circumstances. If in doubt, seek legal advice.