Direct access to the bar:
It is very often possible to instruct a barrister directly (i.e. without involving any law firm or solicitors), in particular if you are involved in litigation outside of the UK, where barristers can work directly with international clients and lawyers. However, the decision as to whether to instruct a barrister without going through a solicitor ('direct access') depends on the circumstances of the particular case. Very often barristers and solicitors provide a complementary service and in large-scale litigation the client is almost invariably best served by a team approach, combining the particular expertise of both barristers and solicitors.
Why choose a barrister:
There are also cases where the only services required are those of the barrister and it is both simpler and cheaper to instruct the individual directly:
- A barrister can often advise on litigation strategy, prospects of success and the evidentiary requirements of a case, without being instructed through a solicitor.
- Barristers are generally able to charge very competitive rates for their services in large part because their overheads are much lower than large law firms.
- Barristers are highly flexible in their working methods and can be used as part of a team with their clients and other legal advisors, and are often ready to travel to any jurisdiction to work or advise on a case.
- Barristers work like consultants, advising almost exclusively on litigation. As such, they are not in competition with law firms for transactional work. Accordingly, they are the ideal partners for international firms seeking English law expertise.
"Barristers offer independence, ﬂexibility, excellence in advocacy and low overheads"
Litigation: Commercial barristers are first and foremost known for their expertise as advocates and for their unparalleled experience in litigation. This results in their services being in high demand in the international legal market. They have a wealth of experience to draw upon when guiding their clients through the many strategic and tactical challenges of international litigation and arbitration and in presenting a case (in both written and oral form) to a court or tribunal.
Advisory: Barristers frequently advise on the legal aspects of a broad range of corporate and commercial agreements and disputes, across a wide spectrum of industries. As trial lawyers barristers will have seen how a particular issue may be approached by a court or an arbitral panel and will have a deep knowledge of the law. They can then apply that experience and knowledge when advising on matters such as corporate structure, transactions and many other fields of non-contentious work.
"Barristers advise on non-contentious matters with the beneﬁt of their dispute resolution experience."
Arbitrators: London is a leading centre of international arbitration. Additionally, many of the world’s leading international arbitrators are current or former English barristers, including Queen’s Counsel and retired English judges, with experience of working for the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the London Court of Commercial Arbitration (LCIA). They can be instructed directly by overseas lawyers or organisations such as the ACI Financial Markets Association (ACI), which provides an administered scheme for disputes which are referred to the Commercial Bar. There are also several important overseas centres for international trade in which, subject to the local rules of the legal profession, English barristers can acquire the right to appear in court and arbitrations, and argue cases before those tribunals.
Mediation: Other forms of alternative dispute resolution ("ADR") or mediation are being used more and more frequently to resolve commercial disputes. Increasing numbers of COMBAR members are now qualified, and have substantial experience, as mediators. Many others regularly act as advocates or representatives of clients in the mediation process. ACI (referred to above) provides commercial services in this sector, as does the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). COMBAR also has close links with ADR Chambers, a provider of ADR practitioners for commercial disputes in high-value cases.