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In an historic move barristers can now receive instructions direct from members of the public following a change in the Bar Council’s code of conduct.
The Department of Constitutional Affairs yesterday granted the Bar Council approval to remove the blanket ban on direct public access. However the move could dent solicitors’ coffers as in many cases there will now be no need for them to refer clients to the bar.
Anthony Speaight QC, chairman of the Bar Council’s access to the bar committee said: "Until now a client who wanted advice from a barrister not only had to pay the barrister, but also had to pay a solicitor for passing on the instructions.
"Now unnecessary duplication of legal fees can be cut out."
The reform represents an extension to the longstanding principle allowing professionals, such as accountants and surveyors, to side step solicitors and instruct barristers direct. So far 160 professional bodies have been granted licenses to do this.
The new scheme does not apply to criminal, family and immigration barristers who must still receive instructions from solicitors.
Also, cases must be sufficiently small not to involve litigation –hence the involvement of solicitors – for them to be sent direct to counsel.