DPA qualified barristers are now able to take instructions directly from the public. For small businesses this means the cost of instructing a barrister is often cheaper than going to a solicitor.
What is a Direct Public Access Barrister, and how can they help small businesses?
A Direct Public Access (“DPA”) barrister is a barrister who is able to work directly for members of the public without the need to have a solicitor act as an intermediary.
It used to be the case that barristers could only be instructed by a solicitor. A solicitor would prepare a case and then instruct a barrister who would advise on complex areas of the law, draft court documents and present the case in court. Solicitors did not have the right to speak before higher courts. However these traditional roles are changing.
Since 1994 and the Access to Justice Act, solicitors have been granted what are called ‘higher rights of audience’. This allows solicitors who take an additional qualification to present cases in court as well as prepare them.
However, barristers who are DPA qualified are now able to take instructions directly from the public.
What can this mean for a small business?
One of the key advantages of DPA for a small business is that the cost of instructing a barrister is often cheaper than going to a solicitor. This is for two reasons:
First, a barrister does not have the same overheads as a solicitor’s firm. Solicitors will employ secretaries, support staff and have a premises and other administrative charges associated with running an office. Barristers on the other hand operate out of ‘chambers’ where a group of self-employed barristers share the cost of clerks to take bookings on their behalf and conference rooms to meet with clients. Barristers are therefore able to offer lower hourly rates and many now act on fixed fees.
Second, it is often the case that a legal matter will in any event necessitate having a barrister involved at some stage in the case. This might be for the barrister to write a legal advice or to argue the case in court. In such circumstances the barrister will need to read all of the documents which have already been prepared by the solicitor. This means a duplication in work and the client will foot the bill!
Therefore in many small legal matters, needing expertise, but not justifying large sums of money being spent, a DPA barrister can be a cost effective legal solution and with the added advantage of having an expert involved at an early stage.
This can be of considerable importance in, for example, employment cases. A procedural error can land a business in an Employment Tribunal and the costs flowing from this can be crippling at a stage when a new business is just starting to develop and grow.
What kind of work can DPA barristers do?
They can do most of the same work a solicitor can do. A barrister can offer legal advice and guidance and provide representation before all courts and in relation to all proceedings. They draft legal documents such as contracts or documents used in litigation. They are able to write letters and carry out negotiation. They can be particularly cost effective in debt recovery or small claims litigation, where solicitor’s fees can be prohibitively expensive. What a barrister may not do however is provide their address for correspondence purposes, and they are not entitled to issue proceedings, although both of these can be done by the business itself.
Where can you find a DPA barrister?
Barristers work from chambers. You can contact a chambers and ask if they have any barristers who are DPA qualified. Or, for more information about DPA visit the Bar Council Website on www.barcouncil.org.uk.