Down the High Street or direct to Counsel?

Welcome to Clerksroom Direct – a recent web presence to be rolled out to the public on 1 January 2015, providing a new service for barristers, clerks and chambers with a portal designed to be an end-to-end solution for the Public Access Bar.

Clerksroom say that their portal will invite enquiries from the public, obtaining quotes from barristers and allowing the public to select the appropriate service. It is to be free for barristers, clerks and chambers as the client will pay a small additional administration fee for using the portal, importantly, giving client choice.

Direct access has been with us in one form or another since 1999 when I set up and ran the first BarDirect pilots that gave corporate and institutional clients free access to the Bar. Since then, metamorphosing into Public Access, with regular training sessions for barristers and the Bar Council’s directory of practitioners, direct access has become part of the legal landscape.

The Bar’s need to compete in the private client market was accelerated by the Law Society‘s insistence on obtaining higher rights of advocacy for their members. This led to the Bar Standards Board declaring,

“Whilst the referral model remains robust for those cases which require and can afford a division of labour between advocate and litigator, there is a need to allow greater flexibility in service provision in cases where this is not so.”

“The BSB anticipates a market for privately funded work where clients involved in litigation have a choice between the traditional referral model, one-stop services supplied either by solicitor-advocates or by barristers who also provide litigation services, public access services where the barrister provides advocacy and advice but the client conducts the litigation and ‘spot’ purchases by self-represented litigants of advice or assistance with particular aspects of their case.”

With the reduction in legal aid contracts and the hike in legal aid entry criteria for firms of solicitors, combined with the removal or reduction of legal aid from areas of legal work, high street solicitors have been feeling the strain.

Some solicitors are now expressing dissatisfaction with the concept of direct access to the Bar, seeing this as the latest nail in the high street coffin.

The question to be asked by us all is whether these changes are here to stay? A quick web search says that they are. The professional bodies slip stream government policies – and appear to agree.

So, is not now the time to recognise change, rather than adopt Luddite responses of denial? Direct Access may not yet be a legal ‘combined harvester’, but the signs are that this is a distinct possibility. Clients gravitate towards two incentives – cost cutting, and expertise. And this is where the Bar is unique.

The Bar will continue to increase its direct client market share. The professions will have to re-configure their relationships to reflect this. But those ahead of the game -like Clerksroom Direct -may have the steal on us all.

 

 

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3 comments on “Down the High Street or direct to Counsel?

  1. finolamoss says:

    It appears the government plan is to effectively destroy both legal professions. and have all legal services via large Alternative business structures, effectively leaving our law enforcement to the insurance industry.

    We have already seen how they make profit, with the PPI and industrial deafness cold calls, and then standard process via zero hour/ fixed contract paralegals.

    And through legal aid cuts , advocacy accreditation schemes, and defender system, the criminal bar will soon be gone.

    We have lost the Bars independence. Matrix is going ABS .

    The public have little idea of the reputation of these ‘lawyers’ ,and scant accountability,and all is excessively commercially aware.

    Our law, and justice system, have been opened up to the wolves of commercialisation….

  2. finolamoss – thank you for your incisive comment. You are quite right. Back in May 2013 in my blog https://stephentwist.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/stobart-barristers/ and https://stephentwist.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/online-legal/ – and before that in February 2012 in https://stephentwist.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/the-price-is-right/ – I was warning of these outcomes. Are there any simple solutions, or are we now committed to the ABS model?

    • finolamoss says:

      Even the USA lawyers rejected ABS, they are only in Canada, where it would appear, we are inportng a lot of policy from ….

      We have to get rid of all third way governments and reinstate individualism, reputation, substance and integrity. But how ???

      Just put this comment on your Stobbart Barristers Blog Post.

      This is the future for all public serves- private monopoly outsourcing corporations, backed by venture capitalists.

      This is the advent of knowledge, skills and welfare capitalism. Effectively ripping them off for managers, and investors.

      CAPITA and SERCO, have already done this with court translation and prison services. And were to take over child protection, despite being investigated for fraud, and paying 70 million back to the government, for prisoners they had not tagged .

      They will soon take over justice, via our courts, a very lucrative commodity..

      Social Care, is already effectively owned by large corporate, cultish care agencies, employing zero hour, itinerant workers, often immigrants.

      All these outsourcers, are effectively unaccountable, and easily liquidated.

      Old, disabled and children service users are captured, and encaged in secret care and foster homes, and ‘independent’ living units, under the Mental Capacity Act and Children and Families Act..

      Their is no competition, choice, or accountability-the perfect business model..

      But is there not a huge conflict of interests,to say nothing of the danger of hidden insider dealings, and what would the monopoly and mergers committee have said ?

      Reply

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