The Bar Council has bought a 50% stake in a website that will put consumers and businesses directly in touch with a barrister, after deciding that promoting public access to barristers is one of its key priorities for 2015 and 2016.
The Bar Council will appoint three directors to maintain and grow the Direct Access Portal (DAP), which was created by family law barristers Pru Beever and Mike Whyatt from 15 Winkley Square in Preston.
The DAP, which facilitates searches for a barrister, mediator or arbitrator by specialism or geography, will replace the Bar Council’s existing, less user-friendly direct access register. Not all barristers undertake public access work and the new site will allow barristers to be listed and promoted individually. Barristers listed on the current register will be transferred over the summer to the DAP, which will remain independent but link to the Bar Council’s site and branding.
Direct Access barristers who pay the Bar Council’s bar representation fee of £100 per year will be able to list for free on the portal, which currently has 300 direct access barristers listed.
Barristers have been able to take instruction direct from the public since 2010 but the issue has been back in focus since in October 2013, when a new training regime was introduced requiring public access barristers to undertake ‘top up’ training. Alistair MacDonald QC, chairman of the Bar, said: “Innovation in the barristers’ profession is clearly alive and well. The Direct Access Portal was designed with one aim in mind; to make it easier for the public to access the quality services that barristers provide. There are now thousands of barristers able to provide legal advice and other services directly to members of the public, potentially saving them money in the process. This portal will act as the point of access to these barristers.”