Barristers’ perceptions of the public access scheme

The full report can be found below including the underlying survey data sets for this piece of research. Infographic and summary are also available below.

Why is this research important?

Consumers have been able to use barristers directly, without needing to instruct a solicitor or other intermediary, since 2004. The Bar Standards Board (BSB), which regulates barristers in England and Wales, reformed the rules for barristers providing public access in 2013, with the aim of widening consumer choice. This research, which we commissioned jointly with the BSB, is the first detailed look at the provision of public access since the 2013 reforms were introduced.

Why did we undertake this research?

The changes made to the regulation of public access in 2013 are some of the most important reforms since the Legal Services Act 2007. The research helps us to understand how barristers are providing public access, learn about the impacts for consumers and barristers, and identify if consumers face any barriers when trying to instruct barristers directly.

The BSB is currently reviewing how it regulates public access and this research may lead to changes.

What new information did this research provide?

The research involved a survey of 400 barristers and 30 depth interviews with barristers.

It provides reliable data on the scale and type of public access work and barristers’ views on the types of consumers instructing them directly. Barristers provided views on the effectiveness of the regulatory framework and the impacts of public access on the market.

Overall the research found that public access is a small but growing part of barristers’ work. It suggests that consumers are starting to see the benefits of having a wider choice of legal services. However, a key barrier to access occurs in situations where barristers are not authorised to conduct litigation and the client is not able to fill the role normally performed by solicitors.

How are we going to use this research?
This new information will feed into the LSB’s ongoing market evaluation, which seeks to establish the impact of reforms on the legal sector market.