Until recently, barristers of the United Kingdom were forbidden to be instructed by the public, they had to follow instructions directly from a solicitor. This law has now been lifted which entitles any member of the public to take their legal issues directly to the barristers themselves.
They essentially have the same characteristics as a regular barrister, given that they provide specialist legal advice, draft legal documents and provide representation in a house of court. However the difference is that there is no solicitor.
There are several advantages to the abolishment of this law. Firstly, under the old system the client would begin by having to seek advice from a solicitor, after they had reviewed it, based on the complexity of the issues the case would usually get passed onto a barrister. Under the new system, there is only one legal advisor required and so having direct access cuts down on costs due to one less service. Direct public access means essentially going straight to the horse's mouth, you can get immediate advice at your choice and not when the issues get to court.
Direct Public Access is good for the benefit of the public. Although there is still a necessity for solicitors within the legal system, the abolished law opens up a much larger means for the public to gain access to legal advice.
Direct Access Barristers deal with all sorts of legal matters such as:
Building or contractor disputes
Difficulty or employment issues
Health and Safety disputes
Advise on legal documentation
However, there are only a small proportion of barristers that will undertake direct access and public access. For those who do, public access is available in all areas of work that barristers cover, aside from any work that is funded through legal aid. Whether or not the case is deemed suitable for public access can be decided on a preliminary meeting, it is often assumed to be more appropriate for less complex cases. Solicitors are still needed within the system as there are areas of legal work that direct access barristers cannot undertake, should the barrister see fit that it would be to the clients benefit to involve a solicitor then they will advise you to do so. Each case will vary based on the nature of the issues in hand, considering the ability of the client to deal with parts of the case that would normally be taken over by a solicitor.
When it comes to cost, a barrister usually bases their fees around how long they feel the case will take and the complexity of the issues involved. They should agree on a fixed fee for each piece of work covered and can ask for the fees to be paid in advance. There are no formal fixed charges for a barrister; however there are usually standard fees charges for certain types of work. When the fee is in terms of a hearing then the barrister is entitled to the charge, regardless of whether or not the hearing goes ahead.