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Schemes allowing direct instruction of barristers are working well, BSB’s review finds

Family Law one of the areas for which Public Access is most commonly used

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has published the results of a review into the Public and Licensed Access schemes. These schemes allow members of the public and other lay clients to instruct barristers directly without first instructing a solicitor or other intermediary.

The regulator's review concluded that both schemes are operating well, and are an important way for the public to access legal services.

Just over half of the barristers registered on the Public Access scheme surveyed had undertaken up to five cases in the past year. Whilst a relatively small proportion of barristers' overall caseload, it has increased markedly over the past three years. Family Law is one of the areas of law for which Public Access is most commonly used.

The report identified three issues that the regulator should address to improve the Public Access scheme:

The BSB has agreed to implement all of the recommendations made as a result of the review. These include:

BSB Director of Policy and Strategy Ewen MacLeod said:

"Overall, our review has found that the Public and Licensed Access schemes offer an important service to the public. These perform a valuable role in promoting consumer choice by increasing the ways in which legal services can be accessed by the public. However, we cannot afford to be complacent and want to make sure both Public and Licensed Access schemes continue to work well and that the challenges identified in our report are fully addressed."

Last year, in Okon v London Borough of Lewisham, a case relating to council tax liability, Mr Robin Hollington QC, sitting as deputy judge in the Chancery Division and commenting on the circumstances of that case, said that being represented on a direct access basis is "not a complete substitute for being represented by experienced solicitors".

For the BSB report, click here.