What are the advantages of the direct access scheme?

The main advantage of the direct access scheme is that it could potentially save you money since you would be paying for a barrister only instead of the barrister and a solicitor. It may also speed things up because you will be in direct contact with your barrister and avoid the delay which can be often caused by a solicitor referring particular matters to a barrister and then relaying the barrister’s advice to the client.

Is my case suitable for direct access?

Direct access is available for all types of legal work which can be done by solicitors and/or barristers. However, even where, as in my case, a barrister is licensed not only for direct access work but also for “conduct of litigation” (the more administrative side of litigation normally done by a solicitor) you may need to consider whether it would be better to have a solicitor to assist with your case at the outset or at some stage during the progress of the case particularly at the stage of preparation for trial. Certain types of case may not be suitable for public access because of their commercial nature and complexity. This may make it difficult for you to carry out the sort of preparatory litigation work that a solicitor would normally do (dealing with large volumes of documents, preparing detailed witness statements, extensive correspondence with the opposing side, issuing applications, preparing hearing bundles etc. Even when licensed for this kind of work, this is not the sort of administrative work which barristers normally need to get involved in, or have the time to deal with in addition to their usual functions. A further consideration is that it is usually not cost-effective to have a barrister carrying out this sort of routine work at their normal hourly rate.

On the other hand, guided by a barrister, you may be able to deal yourself with the kind of administrative tasks such as described above in order to help your case along without the help of another legal professional such as a solicitor. You can file documents at court and affect service yourself, though it may sometimes be preferable and more convenient to get your barrister to arrange for court agents to carry out this sort of task. The fees charged are usually fairly modest and would be settled directly by you.

If you are not sure whether your case would be suitable for public access, you can contact me or my clerk and seek an initial view. If it is considered that your case would benefit from the involvement of a solicitor then you will be advised of this.

Why should I instruct you?

I have been in practice for over 40 years at Brick Court Chambers in London, widely reckoned to be the foremost set of civil and commercial Chambers in the country. In the course of my practice I have been involved in a considerable variety and number of significant cases (more details on the Brick Court Chambers website). My aim is to combine a positive and down-to-earth approach with sound judgment and careful legal analysis, a good relationship with clients, and clear and confident advocacy, drawing on my wealth of experience to assess the court or tribunal in order carry it with me. I work quickly and effectively, and make a point of early response and ready accessibility at all times, whatever my workload.

if I take on your case I will give you an estimate for the work I anticipate doing as well as how long it will take, based upon the information and documents you supply to me. This estimate will be adhered to unless on further investigation it appears that more or less work and/or time will be involved, in which case you will be notified at the earliest opportunity.
Alternatively, you can pay me for a set number of hours work based on an estimate of how much time is going to be needed. If the case turns out to require additional hours for a particular task, an additional payment can be agreed. Once again, you will be kept informed with regular updates. See further under the heading ‘What are your charges?’ below.

I may also be able to assist with obtaining third-party funding for your case.

What type of work do you do?

The main focus of my current practice is on commercial disputes of various kinds involving such matters as shareholders, insolvency, banking, insurance, shipping, commercial arbitration, international and domestic trade and business, restitution/commercial fraud and constructive trusts. Professional negligence is another field in which I practice, and for which I have been commended in the Legal 500 since 2012. I also have experience of competition and restraint of trade, professional disciplinary tribunals, as well as employment and discrimination, and property disputes. I have represented clients in a number of commercial and professional negligence mediations and have sat as arbitrator in LMAA, LCIA and other forms of arbitration. I am a CEDR trained mediator and have also acted as Counsel in a number of mediations.

What types of direct access work have you done?

Pretty much everything mentioned above, apart from the more complex commercial cases where I am usually instructed by a solicitor.

What are you able to do when you are directly instructed?

  • Everything that both a solicitor and barrister can do. Subject to agreement between us, I can take the case from the advisory stage through a letter of action, issue of proceedings, making or defending applications, dealing with case management conferences, disclosure, witness statements, instructing experts, conducting correspondence and appearing in court on your behalf when necessary. The whole process can take a year or more.

  I can advise you about the strength of your case and how best to deal with it. This can be at a meeting, face-to-face, by e-mail, or by telephone.

I can draft letters before action and documents for you to use in proceedings such as statements of case and witness statements.

I can deal directly with the other side either directly or through its legal representatives.

I can also conduct negotiations on your behalf.

I can advise on and draft documents such as contracts.

I can appear to represent you at court or in a mediation or arbitration.

• I can negotiate directly with the other side for you. I am also licensed for the conduct of litigation and in exceptional circumstances, I can deal directly with the court, gather documents and evidence, and prepare witness statements in exactly the same way that a solicitor would. I can arrange for filing at court and service of claims and other documents through court agents whose fees for these services are usually very modest and will be charged directly to you, though it is possible for you to carry out these functions yourself.

Are there any restrictions on what you can do?

There are normally restrictions on certain types of work usually done by a solicitor, such as issuing proceedings and applications, serving documents and gathering evidence. However, as explained above, I am licensed to do this kind of administrative work but would not normally do so. It may either be done by yourself if you are able to, or arrangements can be made for paralegals, or court agents to do it for you, under my guidance.
I cannot hold money for you, though arrangements can be made for it to be held in an authorised account with an organisation known as Bar Direct.

In what circumstances would you not accept direct instructions?

There may be occasions when I do not feel able to do so because I consider that the involvement of solicitor will be in your best interests, or because existing work will not enable me to devote sufficient time and attention to your case.

How do I contact you?

E-mail me here at Brick Court Chambers or telephone me on 020 7379 3550
and one of my clerks (Luke, Jo, Philip, James or Sam) will put you straight through to me if I am available, or arrange for me to call you back,
I will normally be happy to have a preliminary discussion with you concerning your case without charge for up to half an hour, with a view to my possible involvement.

If you wish you can write to me or my clerks at:

Brick Court Chambers,
7/8 Essex Street,
London WC2R 3LD.

Do you only work in London?

Although most of my work is in London, I am prepared to work anywhere in the UK or abroad. This would of course involve travelling time, travelling and possibly accommodation expenses, so that it might be unduly expensive to instruct me to appear in court a long way away, rather than local lawyers. If the work is simply advisory or involves drafting this will of course not apply.

What are your charges?

My fees will vary depending on the nature of the work and the amount in issue. In some circumstances for example, if you have limited resources, this will be taken into account. My normal hourly rate is £400 per hour plus VAT. This is well below the hourly rate often charged by litigation partners in many London firms, especially those in the city or the West End.
It is important to note that (a) it is usual in direct access cases for the fees to be agreed and paid in advance of the work being done. Only exceptionally will this requirement be waived (b) it is not possible for barristers to hold client money on account, as in the case of solicitors, so that once paid the fee is not refundable even if, for example, a case settles unexpectedly. It is, therefore, best to agree on and pay fees stage by stage as matters proceed. Occasionally, where the scope of the work is uncertain, it will only be possible to give you an estimate of how much time is going to be needed and charge you for a set number of hours in line with that estimate. If that time is used up but more hours are needed further agreement would be reached on an appropriate estimated number of additional hours. You would be kept informed of the time being used as matters proceed. These arrangements would be spelt out in the Letter of Engagement which will form the basis of the contract between us.

Is it more cost-effective to instruct you directly or through a solicitor?

Because barristers’ overheads are less than solicitors we have traditionally been able to charge lower hourly rates than comparably experienced solicitors. Often much of the work that would be done by a solicitor, such as photo-copying and collating documents you will be able to do yourself. Some solicitors, particularly large firms, engage more than one person on a case as well as instructing a barrister, and clients pay unnecessarily for this duplication. Some people will prefer to have all the work, however mundane, done by a professional, in which case they may be better off using a solicitor. Another option is to engage a paralegal to carry out some of the administrative or conduct of litigation work which I would not generally agree to do and you might not feel able or willing to do yourself.

Do I instruct you or your chambers?

I, like all practising barristers, work independently rather than in partnership. Members of chambers such as mine pool expenses and provide practical and professional assistance to each other. If I were, for instance, double booked I would normally suggest that someone from my chambers cover that work. The client would not have to agree to that but if they did they would enter into a separate agreement with the other barrister. Also because most of my clients pay legal fees out of their own pockets, rather than from a bottomless corporate fund, I am conscious of the need to control and give meaningful information about costs.
The Bar Standards Board has advised barristers not to accept work directly from the public on a no win/no fee (conditional fee) basis. Only in a case where I felt there was a compelling reason, such as very poor person who had a strong claim against a large corporation, would I depart from that advice. However, I may be able to help you arrange for third-party funding. Some third-party funders are prepared to take the risk of the case in return for a proportion of the proceeds if successful.

What if I am eligible for legal aid?

At the moment legal aid or public funding is not available for direct access to barristers, so if you hope to be funded that way you should approach a solicitor. In certain circumstances you may be eligible for legal aid but may prefer to instruct me directly anyway.

Are you able to get any publicity for my claim?

I can only refer to your case by name (rather than anonymously and in general terms) if you agree.

What other information might I need?

The Bar Council has an informative website, which sets out what barristers and solicitors both do, please click on the following link,
The Bar Council 

Peter Irvin