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Direct access: A mixed blessing for barristers

Tim Markham discusses the effects of the direct access scheme on barristers' workloads, the relationship with solicitors, and access to justice for clients

23 February 2016

Direct public access to barristers has now been available since 2004. It is fair to say that there was initially huge scepticism at the Bar about this new departure from the historical method of instruction by solicitors. Barristers had to undertake a one-day course to qualify for this work and then needed to be registered with the Bar Council before they could act directly for clients.

Take-up for the scheme was initially slow by the Bar; it is equally true that initial take-up by the public was also slow. In my view, the main reason for this was that there was very little marketing or publicity around the subject, and the public simply did not realise that the option was open to them.

The landscape has certainly changed dramatically over the last few years. By 27 January 2016, 5,315 barristers had qualified for the scheme.
In our chambers, 40 of our 57 members are qualified. Our recei...

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