Almost a quarter of barristers would like to see law firm-style partnership and corporate structures at the bar, new research by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has revealed.
The BSB’s first major research project since its formation in January also found that 23 per cent of barristers would like to offer some services currently provided by solicitors.
Almost half of the employed Bar expressed an interest in providing services with other professions, while across the rest of the bar this dropped to 18 per cent.
Ruth Evans, the chair of the BSB, said that the results must be considered carefully in our response to the opportunities offered to the profession by the Legal Services Act.
“The Legal Services Act, which just recently received assent, will have an impact on the bar which is why we have already started the review of the code of conduct,” explained Evans. “The review anticipates the implementation of the Legal Services Act and its potential for alternative business structures for barristers.”
The research, which polled more than 4,350 people including barristers, solicitors, prisoners and members of public, focused on the perceptions clients and barristers have of the bar.
Evans said that the most striking finding of the research conducted by Ipsos MORI was the “significant mismatch” between clients’ experience of using a barrister and barristers’ own views of the level of service they provide.
According to the report, 47 per cent of barristers believe that the public think the profession is out of touch whereas only 16 per cent of the public believe this.
Only three in 10 members of the public feel that barristers are trusted and highly regarded, which 56 per cent of the bar thought this was the case.
The report goes on to reveal that 96 per cent of solicitors and others instructing barristers felt that the bar provided good or excellent advice or guidance, with 71 per cent of the general public feeling that their barrister was easy to speak to.
More than two-thirds of the public were satisfied with their barrister’s overall effectiveness and 66 per cent felt their barrister understood their needs.
In relation to pay, more than 80 per cent of barristers thought the public saw the bar as well paid, whereas 60 per cent thought this was the case. Just over one in four barristers, themselves, thought they were well paid.
Geoffrey Vos QC, the Bar Council chair, on these findings, said that there is much in the report that the bar can take heart from.
“The Bar is seen as a profession of integrity providing high quality services,” said Vos. “The report also finds that the image of the Bar is better that some barristers think it is. We are not seen as out of touch or as overpaid.”
Vos added that the Bar Council does recognise that the bar can do more to improve its client case, which has led to initiatives such as the recently launched Bar Quality Advisory Panel (BQAP).