The Bar Council is set to launch a pioneering scheme which will enable the public to bypass solicitors when consulting barristers.
The “direct access” pilot will be launched at the end of this month through advice centres in Milton Keynes, London, Sheffield and Cambridge.
The barristers' fees will be funded through legal aid, or privately, a Bar Council spokesman said. Non-solicitor advice centre employees will refer members of the public requiring legal advice directly to barristers in several, as yet unnamed, chambers. The scheme has yet to be officially announced.
Until now, only professional groups such as architects have had direct access rights.
Meanwhile, the non-practising Bar Association is planning its own pilot law centre in Kent.
Chairman Dr Peter Gray said that the association would be looking at funding under the Lord Chancellor's proposed Community Legal Service scheme.
See Chambers, page 8