Under relatively recently, barristers could not, except in very limited circumstances, undertake work upon the direct instruction of a client or an intermediary without the involvement of a solicitor.
There are now two ways through which they can undertake such Direct Access work: via Licensed Access or by Public Access. And this has been opened up recently to the areas of family, criminal and immigration work. These changes have and, indeed, continue to alter the way in which barristers’ legal services are instructed and, thus, marketed.
Licensed Access and Public Access
It is, first, important to clarify the ways in which barristers can now be instructed under the Direct Access rules.
Licensed Access operates as a licensing system through which organisations or individuals who are suitable to instruct barristers can apply to the Bar Council to be licensed to instruct barristers directly in those areas. The licensing rules distinguish between advice and representation, although both are available. Further information on the licensing rules is available here: http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/about/instructingabarrister/licensedaccess/.
Separately, Public Access allows all clients, even if they are not licence-holders, to instruct barristers directly in many circumstances to provide legal advice or representation in court without the involvement of a solicitor. Further information on Public Access can be found here http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/about/publicaccess/.
These routes help clients to save money by allowing them to instruct their barrister directly. It also helps to save time, foster better communication and, generally, give the public greater access to the legal system.
Direct Access, Barristers’ Websites and Online Marketing
If a barrister chooses to focus on winning business and expanding the practice and client-base via Direct Access, then there should be a change in focus from receiving most, if not all, work via referrals from solicitors or law firms. Instead, one area in which there should be an increased focus is in web marketing and generation of business through online means, mirroring the approach that many law firms are now taking.
There are two fundamental aspects of a solid online marketing campaign. First, it is essential to have an optimised website, complete with a blog, which ranks highly in search engines for key phrases associated with the barrister’s services & location. Second, it is important to have a strong social media presence, particularly on Linkedin and Twitter, which can facilitate engagement with potential clients and help improve word of mouth marketing.
Thus, given the potential for Direct Access, together with an increasingly competitive marketplace with growth of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) later in 2011, there is potential for barristers, particularly now with family, criminal and immigration barristers to take advantage of the latest online marketing strategies to help drive new business to their chambers.
At Moore Legal Technology, we work with barristers to optimise their website and develop their social media presence. We believe that if all the essential elements are perfected, you will win new and better business more often.
Get in touch today on 0845 620 5664, email us at or fill out an enquiry form.