Direct access to the bar has soared since the recession began, as chambers build stronger relationships with in-house counsel.
Research commissioned by Lincoln’s Inn set Hardwicke shows that almost a third (32 per cent) of the 65 in-house counsel and company secretaries surveyed had instructed a barrister directly in the past two years.
That is more than double the proportion from a comparable survey carried out in 2008 (15 per cent) while a 2006 report showed that just 6 per cent had gone directly to the bar.
“There’s been a step change in the approach of corporate counsel to the bar,” Hardwicke chief executive Ann Buxton said. “In 2008 the world was a different place – the economy seemed strong and Lehman Brothers hadn’t collapsed.
“Corporate Britain’s relationship with its lawyers has gone through a radical upheaval in the past two years. It wants and expects better value for money, and the increasing use of direct access is part of that.”
The study also shows a striking surge in confidence among respondents, with 87 per cent believing they have a sufficient grasp of the issues to be able to instruct barristers directly, more than doubling the 2008 finding of 40 per cent.
A raft of major corporates has moved to consolidate relationships with the bar. BAE Systems has introduced an initiative that sees it regularly instruct barristers at Matrix Chambers, Atkin Chambers and Henderson Chambers.
Meanwhile, Orange and T-Mobile launched a panel review in July in the wake of their merger to become Everything Everywhere, with chambers as well as law firms included.