Direct Access Barristers Conduct of Litigation

September 18, 2014 tags:

What does ‘conduct of litigation’ actually mean? 

A major impediment to a direct access barrister providing a full service to a litigation client was that the client would have to do a lot of the administration of the case himself. This would include issuing the claim at court, signing off all papers filed in the case, and handling correspondence, even though the client had a lawyer, namely his direct access counsel, acting for him. 

The reason for this seemingly bizarre requirement is that these tasks, and others, fall within the definition of ‘conducting of litigation’, which was an activity that only solicitors were allowed to conduct under the Legal Services Act 2007. Basically, a barrister was not allowed to ‘go on record’ with the court as the legal representative of a client, nor could he sign documents on the client’s behalf as the solicitor could. 

This anomaly was removed in January 2014, where the Bar Council began authorising barristers with sufficient experience and capability to ‘conduct litigation’, so long as their Chambers were geared up to meet the requirements of acting in this way. Fewer than 100 barristers met these stringent criteria in the first 6 months of the scheme, but Mark Smith, our head of Chambers was one of them.  Other members of Chambers will be qualifying later this year. 

For our clients, this means that counsel can deal with every aspect of the case, removing any burden on the client. Other than the potentially massive cost savings, resulting from the requirement of only one lawyer as opposed to the conventional solicitor AND barrister setup, the only difference between an authorised barrister conducting litigation and a solicitor is that barristers do not handle any client money. All funds that do not belong to the barrister are held securely in an escrow account controlled by the Bar Council, for everyone’s security and peace of mind. This also has cost benefits on the basis that the requirement for client money protection insurance is not applicable to barristers, therefore one less overhead which would otherwise have to be passed onto a client.

Counsel deal with all the paperwork, correspondence, signing-off of documents filed, and all the administration of the case. In addition, barristers conducting litigation can claim costs from a losing party in litigation in just the same way as a solicitor can. We can also seek insurance against costs risks if the case is lost.

Overall, this liberalisation of the conduct of litigation allows direct access counsel, where they and their chambers are of sufficient quality and experience, to provide a complete litigation service to any client who needs it. This service is of course allied to the usual levels of response, cost-effectiveness, and benefit of cutting-edge court experience which come as standard to our clients.

Direct Public Access Barristers with Fixed Fees