Insurance company Broker Direct has issued a warning to its panel of law firms not to prevent chambers initiating BarDirect schemes.
Insurance director Neil Harris says that the warning came as a result of hearing evidence of some London solicitors threatening to cut off instructions to chambers which accept direct instructions from insurers.
“I have spoken to chambers which have said they would be delighted to receive a contract for services from an insurance company, but wouldn't tout for business for fear of solicitors' sanctions,” he says.
Harris is sure that none of his panel of firms have yet been guilty of such behaviour.
But he says: “If I got wind of any action by one of our solicitors which impeded my choice of or access to counsel, those solicitors would be off our panel before they could blink. I suspect that most insurers would take the same view.
“We will be seeking reassurances in the next round of reviews of the contracts we have with our solicitors.”
BarDirect is a new system operated on behalf of the Bar Council which licences individuals in organisations to instruct barristers direct, without having to go through a solicitor.
“Insurers are impressed by the fact that chambers can provide services at far lower cost when instructed directly than when instructed by solicitors, or when the same services are provided by solicitors themselves,” says Harris.
“The time may come when the only services required of solicitors are to deal with proceedings and to proof evidence for trial.”