The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published the results of a review into the Public and Licensed Access schemes. These schemes allow members of the public and other lay clients to instruct barristers directly without first instructing a solicitor or other intermediary.
The regulator’s review concluded that both schemes are operating well, and are an important way for the public to access legal services.
The review also found that most Public Access barristers are providing a valuable service to their clients. However, it identified three issues that the regulator should address to improve the Public Access scheme:
- There are barriers that are making some consumers unable or unwilling to access a Public Access provider;
- Barristers and clerks may not have enough support or may be inadequately prepared to manage Public Access work; and
- Some Public Access barristers may be providing a poor client service.
The BSB has agreed to implement all of the recommendations made as a result of the review. These include:
- re-assessing the rules around training for Public Access barristers and reviewing how effective that training is;
- amending the Rules and Guidance for both schemes; and
- reviewing and revising the documentation given to the public when accessing barristers via the schemes.
BSB Director of Policy and Strategy Ewen MacLeod said: “Overall, our review has found that the Public and Licensed Access schemes offer an important service to the public. These perform a valuable role in promoting consumer choice by increasing the ways in which legal services can be accessed by the public. However, we cannot afford to be complacent and want to make sure both Public and Licensed Access schemes continue to work well and that the challenges identified in our report are fully addressed.”