Bar Council aims for direct client access

The Bar Council has drawn up a blueprint to extend direct access between clients and barristers.

The plan, devised by a working party under James Munby QC, suggests members of certain bodies – including building societies, housing associations, trade unions and financial service providers – be allowed to approach barristers directly.

Munby also repeats the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine's call for the Bar Council to consider allowing barristers the right to conduct litigation.

At present barristers can only receive instruction from solicitors and certain other professional bodies. But the Bar is worried that the Government's legal aid reforms and the proposed expansion of solicitor advocates, will mean that barristers will need additional avenues for getting work.

The plan has been issued for consultation, with 30 November set as the deadline for responses.

Munby said: “We believe the Bar may not be well served by the status quo if it wishes to respond to the challenges of economic and legislative change”. But he also warned that it was “desirable to retain a real and perceived difference between barristers' and solicitors' work”.

A similar plan in 1994 was shelved but support for direct access is growing. Earlier this year the influential Commercial Bar Association voted to consider allowing direct access in all non-contentious and some contentious work.