4 King's Bench Walk London

Welcome to barristers Direct

FAQ

How do I know the barrister I instruct will be right for my case?

Choosing the right barrister is essential not only for your peace of mind but also your pocket. Unless you already know the barrister you want to instruct, you will probably base your assessment on Reputation, Experience, Qualification, Cost and your own Protection. Our experienced Public Access clerking team will be able to assist you in each of these respects.

Reputation

4 King’s Bench Walk is one of the leading and best established common law sets of barristers. Our Chambers are in the Temple in the heart of legal London, where we have been for over 35 years. We comprise over 65  barristers, three of whom are QCs, and a clerks’ room staff of eight. Members of Chambers have gone on to become High Court and Circuit Judges, Queen’s Bench Masters, Employment Tribunal and Mental Health Review Tribunal Chairmen among other judicial roles. Three of our current members are Recorders (part-time judges in the Crown and County Courts). The majority of Chambers' members undertake Public Access work in their various fields of speciality.

Experience

Under the present Public Access scheme, a barrister must have been in practice for at least three years before being qualified to carry out public access work. At 4 King’s Bench Walk our barristers range in experience from those of three years' practice right up to and including our most senior members, who have been in practise for 35 years or longer. As with most Chambers, our barristers specialise in different areas of the law. A barrister is under a professional obligation only to accept cases in which he has experience and competence to act. One of the responsibilities of our clerks is to ensure the right case is assigned to the right barrister.

Qualification

To practise as a barrister one must have a qualifying law degree or its equivalent, pass the Bar Professional Training Course, be called to the Bar by one of the four Inns of Court and successfully complete a one-year pupillage (period of practical training). He or she must then be invited to join an established set of Chambers, known as getting a tenancy. A barrister entitled to do public access work must have also attended a Bar Standards Board approved course. A practising barrister has higher rights of audience entitling him to appear on behalf of a client in all courts in England and Wales.

Cost

There will generally be a significant saving in cost in instructing a barrister directly under the public access scheme rather than through a solicitor. For a start, you are paying for one lawyer not two. Also, because barristers are independent and therefore generally have fewer overheads than solicitors their rates are often considerably lower. For example, Her Majesty’s Court Service guideline figure for a solicitor in the City of London with over eight years post qualification experience is £380 per hour plus VAT. The normal hourly rate for a barrister of eight years call at 4 King’s Bench Walk is £175 plus VAT. Public Access work also has the significant benefit of agreeing fixed fees for specific pieces of work, such as an Advice, a conference or a court appearance.

Protection

All barristers at 4 King’s Bench Walk have current practising certificates, issued by the Bar Standards Board and renewed annually. All have compulsory indemnity insurance and are subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the Bar Standards Board. If for any reason you are dissatisfied with the services of a barrister you are entitled to make a complaint either to the Head of Chambers at 4 King's Bench Walk or to the Legal Ombudsman: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/.

What type of cases are suitable for public access work?

Barristers are now permitted to accept instructions from the public in all types of cases. This means that you can go straight to a Barrister in such cases as civil litigation, county court and High Court claims, employment disputes, disciplinary matters, criminal cases and family and immigration cases. The only restriction is that Barristers cannot under the Public Access Scheme undertake work funded by legal aid.

Barristers are not allowed to run a case. Therefore the type of work which is appropriate for public access is where you need a barrister to help with a specific and identifiable step in the process. It might be representation at a hearing or a trial. It could be to give a written opinion on the merits of a case or on some aspect of it such as procedure, evidence or the likely level of damages. You might want to meet your barrister (generally referred to as a conference) in order to discuss the case generally or obtain advice on specific issues. Barristers are also able to provide general advice as to how your case is run, but unlike with a solicitor, a Barrister can only advise or carry out steps in your case when they have been instructed by you to do so and have accepted those instructions.

 

What work is a barrister prohibited from doing under public access?

The role of a barrister is that of an advisor and an advocate. That means he can represent his clients at a hearing and give advice or opinions. Here are some examples.

A barrister can meet with you (a conference) and provide you with legal advice, or can advise in writing.

A barrister can draft letters on your behalf and send them to another person.

A barrister can prepare case documents (known as pleadings) such as a Claim Form, Particulars of Claim or Defence, or other documents such as Forms E

A barrister can appear on your behalf to argue your case at Court.

If a witness statement is needed from you, a barrister can draft it from what you tell him. He may also be able to help finalise a witness statement from another person based on the information that person has provided.

A barrister can advise you on the need for expert evidence and on the choice of a suitable expert, However I may not instruct an expert on your behalf.

However a barrister, in contrast to a solicitor, is not authorised under the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 to ‘conduct litigation’. Thus there are a number of things which are part of the normal work of a solicitor but which a barrister is not permitted to do. So, for example:

A barrister is not allowed to take responsibility for the general management of a client’s case.

A barrister cannot hold his client’s money. This means he cannot make or arrange payment of court fees, expert’s fees or witnesses’ expenses.

A barrister cannot issue proceedings, file documents at court or serve documents on other parties.


If you instruct a barrister under the public access scheme it is quite likely that there are some steps you will have to take yourself – for example corresponding with the other side, liaising with the court or tribunal and collating evidence. Your barrister will usually be able to give guidance where it is needed. If he thinks that your interests will be best served by instructing a solicitor he is under a professional obligation to tell you.

 

What are the advantages of instructing a barrister rather than a solicitor?

The short answer is it is likely to save you money. In the past you could not engage the services of a barrister without first instructing a solicitor. Therefore if your case needed a barrister you would always be paying for two lawyers rather than one. Now, under the public access scheme, you can go directly to a barrister. To use a colloquialism, you are cutting out the middleman.

There is likely to be a further saving, too, because barristers’ hourly rates are generally less than those of a solicitor of comparable experience. This is because barristers are independent and tend not to have the same level of overheads as a solicitors’ firm. For example, Her Majesty’s Court Service's guideline figure for a solicitor in the City of London with over four years post qualification experience is £380 per hour. For a solicitor with over four years experience it is £274. In reality many solicitors charge more than the guideline rate. At 4 Kings’ Bench Walk the hourly rate of a barrister who has been in practice eight years is £175 and for a barrister of 20 years call is £250. (NB: these figures are all subject to VAT.)

A further advantage is speed. If you need Counsel’s opinion urgently it may also be quicker to go directly rather than through a solicitor.

You may also like the fact you retain control of the purse strings. Often when you instruct a solicitor on a particular matter you enter an open-ended retainer. The solicitor will do all the work that is necessary on the case and charge you accordingly, usually on a time basis. Under the public access scheme you can instruct a barrister to act in relation to a specified step in the process – for example to advise in conference or represent you at a hearing. You pay a fee only for the work you ask him to do at a fee which is agreed between you and the barrister’s clerk in advance.

Who can instruct a barrister under the public access scheme?

Anyone can instruct a barrister under the public access scheme. Note however that the ‘cab rank’ rule does not apply to public access work and a barrister is not therefore obliged to accept the instruction. Barristersdirect.co.uk at 4 King’s Bench Walk accepts instructions from individuals and company and commercial clients and from government and non-governmental organisations in all areas of work.

 

What should I put in my Instructions to Counsel?

There are two key components of instructions to Counsel: a Letter of Instruction and a Bundle of Documents.

Letter of Instruction

The letter of instruction has two purposes. It sets out the background and it tells your barrister what it is you want him to do. There are no hard and fast rules as to what to put in your letter of instruction. Common sense is the best guide. However the following are generally required in every case:

  • Who you are and who you act for.
  • Who your dispute or potential dispute is with and the nature of it (eg ‘claim for unfair dismissal brought by former employee’ or ‘dispute over rights of access to delivery yard’).
  • A brief background. The best way to explain a problem is usually to set out the relevant events in chronological order. There is no need to go in to detail if the facts can be ascertained from the accompanying documents. It is important however to include anything that will not be apparent from the documentation. This might include conversations you have had with other people or things you have witnessed.
  • Any relevant deadlines (eg a hearing date, a time limit for serving evidence or accepting an offer).
  • What you want the barrister to do (eg ‘to represent the respondent at the trial listed for . . .’ or ‘to advise on the following three questions . . .’).

Correspondence with a barrister is traditionally addressed to his or her clerk. You can send your letter of instruction to ‘Clerk to Mr/Mrs/Miss …….’ followed by the chambers address. If you do not know the name of the person you wish to instruct and you want the clerks to help you find an appropriate barrister simply write or send an email to Public Access Clerks at 4 King’s Bench Walk.

Bundle of documents

Your barrister will need to see relevant documents, be it correspondence, emails, statements, photographs, plans, videos, etc. Again the best guide as to what to include is common sense. The following points however are important and apply in every case.

  • The documents must be accompanied by a typed List of Documents on which the name or description of each document is set out. The List of Documents may form part of your Letter of Instruction or it may be a separate schedule. For your protection your barrister is obliged to keep a copy of this list for seven years.
  • All the documents you send must be copies. Barristers do not have the same facilities for storing files and the Bar Council’s rules on public access do not oblige a barrister to retain documents. Thus for your protection you should keep all originals and only send copies to your barrister. In an exceptional case where it is not possible to provide a copy please contact our clerks who will assist with making arrangements for safe delivery and return.

You do not incur any liability for fees simply by sending a letter of instruction to 4 King’s Bench Walk. The clerks will pass your case to a public access barrister who specialises in the relevant area. He will review the papers to ensure the case is suitable for a public access instruction. Our administration team will then contact you with quotations for the work you want your barrister to do. You will only incur liability for any fees when you have approved, signed and returned our standard client care letter.

In a limited number of cases the money laundering legislation requires a barrister to perform checks to verify the identity of his client. If this applies the clerks will contact you and inform you of the appropriate requirements.

Tel: 020 7822 7000

Barristers Direct” can represent you or your company at hearings before courts and tribunals nationwide

Who we act for

Barristers at 4 King's Bench Walk accept public access instructions from company and commercial clients, governmental and non-governmental organisations, institutions and individuals.