Public Access

Barristers are part of a referral profession. Traditionally this has meant receiving cases from a solicitor who sought the expert advice and advocacy skills a barrister can provide. However in recent years the code of conduct under which barristers operate has altered. This means that both lay clients and professional organisations can seek the services of a barrister directly without having to go to a solicitor first.

Barristers at 15NBS Chambers are able to accept work directly from a lay or professional client under a Public Access Scheme. The Public Access Scheme  enables a lay or professional client to access the specialist expertise of a barrister without having to incur the additional cost and time of instructing a solicitor in certain cases.

We provide a professional, personal, and approachable service to clients in what we understand can often be a confusing environment. Our barristers are specially trained to discuss and advise on your legal query, and where appropriate provide representation in court. All cases are dealt with in a confidential, professional and sensitive manner.

With considerable reductions taking place in the types of cases which qualify for legal aid, clients are increasingly finding themselves funding their own legal representation. For cases eligible under the Public Access Scheme it may be far more cost effective to instruct a barrister directly.

Most of our Barristers are trained to accept instructions directly from professional or lay clients, without the need to engage the services of a solicitor. Public access is only available in certain types of cases, and it cannot be used for cases funded by a legal aid order.

The Bar Standards Board which regulate barristers and the work they do has issued helpful guidance for clients who are considering directly instructing a barrister. View for a copy of that guidance here.

Frequently asked questions

What are the advantages of instructing a barrister directly?

Although barristers and solicitors are both lawyers, for centuries they have been separate branches of the legal profession. The functions and training of barristers and solicitors differed greatly. For centuries barristers have worked solely as a referral profession, meaning they are instructed to accept work from solicitors. For a long time only barristers could appear as advocates in the highest courts of England and Wales. This position has altered recently, but barristers still represent a standard and quality in advocacy and court representation – the tradition of which remains strong. Clients have a choice in who represents them in court room environment, and they often chose a barrister because of the high quality advocacy services which can be provided.

It may be cheaper for you. If you only instruct a barrister rather than instructing a solicitor who can provide you with access to a barrister you may save a considerable amount of money in seeking high quality representation.

All barristers at 15NBS Chambers are self employed which allows them to act completely independently whilst maintaining the common thread of impeccably high standards in the quality of service provided.

Is my case suitable to instruct a barrister directly?

If your case is suitable for a legal aid order then you cannot seek representation by a barrister through the Public Access Scheme. The scheme is best used on simple cases as there are some procedural things which barristers are still not allowed to do (see below). The best thing to do is contact the barristers’ clerk to discuss the case. An assessment can then be made as to the suitability of your case.

What can a barrister advise me on?

Most crucially a barrister can appear in court on your behalf. In addition a barrister can give you legal advice, draft documents (including letters and witness statements), advise you on proceedings, advise you on the strength of the case against you or that you are seeking to bring.

A barrister can also locate a suitable expert if one is needed to give evidence in your case.

What can a barrister not do?

A barrister cannot issue proceedings on your behalf. It may be that the barrister can help you prepare these documents, but you send them/ serve them yourself. A barrister cannot instruct an expert witness, but they can help you to locate a suitable expert and identify the points in the case which need comment on. In addition, a barrister cannot handle client affairs or handle client money.

How do I instruct a barrister at 15NBS Chambers or seek advice on whether my matter is suitable?

Firstly we ask you to complete the public access enquiry form. Please either submit this form online or telephone 020 7842 1900 and ask for a copy of the Public Access Enquiry form. We will endeavour to respond to your enquiry within 48 hours of receipt, informing you of whether your case is suitable or asking you for further information from you so that we can determine whether your case is suitable for the Public Access Scheme.

Alternatively you can contact a senior member of our clerking team on 020 7842 1900. Please make it clear that you are seeking advice on a public access matter and we will ensure that you are directed to the most suitable person to deal with your enquiry.

If your matter is deemed to be suitable for the Public Access Scheme, a suitable fee for the work will be agreed, and you will need to show proof of your identity. Following this, a client care letter will be sent to you. This document will set out what work will be completed and counsels fee.

It will form the terms of the agreement between you and the barrister. It is important that you read this letter and agree that it is correct.

How much does it cost to directly instruct a barrister at 15NBS Chambers ?

This will depend on two things; the type of case it is (how much work is involved and its complexity) and the experience of the barrister you are instructing. At 15NBS Chambers   we have a range of barristers who accept work on the Public Access Scheme, from Junior Barristers to Queen’s Counsel.

At 15NBS Chambers we pride ourselves on ensuring that the fees we charge are clear and easily understandable from the outset. If there is a variable or if there are circumstances where an additional fee needs to be charged (these may include Court fees, any additional hearings, litigator costs or any experts reports that may be required), we would strive to ensure that this would be brought to your attention at the earliest possible stage.

Where fixed rates are provided we will not exceed that amount without prior client authority. Our hourly rates for counsel start from £100 per hour however, the rate charged will be gauged by the seniority of the barrister instructed, the complexity of the case and their availability (i.e if the case is taken at short notice). Please contact our clerking team either by telephone on 020 7842 1900 or, and they will be able to assist you with the information required to prepare a detailed estimate of fees which will be provided to you within 7 days. Below is a range of potential fees that could be charged for a direct access case:

1st Appearance                                                                £500  –  £3,000

Brief fee*                                                                           £1,500 – £15,000

Refreshers*                                                                      £1,000 – £3,500

Sentence                                                                          £500 –  £3,000

All fees charged for counsel will be subject to additional VAT costs.

All information is correct as of  1st January 2020.

*A brief fee is an agreed fixed fee that covers all the pre-trial preparation and the first day of the trial. A refresher is the fixed agreed fee for any subsequent days of the trial which includes the ongoing preparation before and after court each day.

When will I need to pay?

The fee is payable before any work is completed on your case.

What if I qualify for Legal Aid / public funding?

Unfortunately we cannot accept public access cases on a Legal Aid basis and we are not able to assist you in determining whether or not you are eligible for Legal Aid. However, the website of the Ministry of Justice offers a Legal Aid Eligibility Calculator. This can be accessed by clicking here. If you are eligible for legal aid, the barrister involved in your matter will advise you to approach a solicitor. It may be that the barrister will be able to make a recommendation to you about a suitable solicitor to deal with your case.

Even if you are eligible for Legal Aid, you can still choose to instruct a barrister privately, using your own funds, under the Public Access Scheme if you prefer.

Can any barrister undertake Public Access Work?

No, barristers need to be specially trained before they can undertake work on the Public Access Scheme. At 15NBS Chambers we have an ever expanding team of barristers who have all undertaken this specialist training.

Do barristers have a complaints procedure if I am not satisfied with the service I receive?

15NBS Chambers strive to provide a high quality service to all who instruct our barristers. In the unlikely event that you wish to lodge a complaint, we recognise that it is important to provide a suitable complaints procedure. You can find full information on our complaints procedure here. All complaints will be treated in the strictest of confidence.

If you are unsatisfied with our internal complaints procedure you can contact the Bar Standards Board at:

Complaints and Investigations Department,
Bar Standards Board,
289 – 293 High Holborn

Telephone: 020 7611 1444


The Legal Ombudsman can be contacted at:

Legal Ombudsman
PO Box 6806,
Telephone: 0300 555 0333

You must complain to the Legal Ombudsman either within six years of your barrister’s actions/failure to act, or no later than three years after you should reasonably have known there were grounds to complain. You must also complain to the Legal Ombudsman within six months of receiving your barrister’s final response to your complaint.

The Legal Ombudsman publishes data on all complaints that have been resolved. The Ombudsman’s final decision data can be found here.