Direct access: meeting the challenge
News that by 2015 up to half of barristers will be trained to bypass solicitors’ firms has been met with a certain number of raised eyebrows. Commenters on the Law Gazette’s article have chuckled at the prospect of barristers arriving at a police station early on a Sunday morning, and been unconvinced that that the Bar is particularly inclined to deal personally with members of the public.
The rather startling figure comes from the Bar Council/BSB’s Barristers’ Working Lives report, which found that one in five barristers are to undertake public access training, meaning that clients will be able to directly access almost half of all barristers by the end of next year.
When it comes to barristers undertaking Public Access work, the Bar’s Code of Conduct is clear: it is essential to have the necessary skills to deal directly with clients, which inevitably entails a high degree of professional administrative expertise. Some solicitors have (perhaps forgivably) doubted the ability of counsel to handle the notoriously complex, laborious and time-consuming demands of case and brief preparation.
But there is a general consensus that the Bar must develop to keep pace with swingeing cuts to Legal Aid and the shifts of a legal landscape subject to a series of earthquakes over the past few years. BSB chair Lady Deech QC welcomed the prospect of barristers engaging directly with members of the public, lauding it as ‘good news for consumers’.
If barristers are to meet the demands of both regulators and consumers, close engagement with professional litigation support partners such as Legastat is essential. Balancing advocacy and litigation with the strict regulatory requirements regarding administration - even after Public Access training – places a burden on already time-pressed barristers and their chambers.
By working in close partnership with litigation support professionals, and making the most of the array of innovations in legal tech on offer, the challenge of provider greater public access becomes less daunting. From secure IT solutions such as Cloud storage and digital briefs to eDisclosure and eDiscovery, Legastat works closely with chambers to ensure they provide the best possible service to clients – ensuring the right to access justice is preserved through all the upheavals of change.
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