17 September 2019

Barristers are serving family law clients well, says new BSB research

Last month, we published the findings of our research with people who have used barristers' services during family legal proceedings. The findings show that most of those who took part in the research were positive about the service they received from their barrister.

The research is the most in-depth that we have conducted with barristers' clients to date.

The results indicate that when a family law matter goes to court, the majority of people are represented by a solicitor, and around one third use a barrister. As most family law matters never go to court, this means that only 13 per cent of people with a family law issue of any type used a barrister.

Interviews with respondents who used a barrister highlighted the following:

  • Most clients were positive about the service they received from their barrister;
  • Some clients referred by solicitors highlighted the limited contact they had with their barrister before going to court, and that this led to a perception of problems with the service they received, such as the barrister not providing enough information to the client, or the barrister not having all the details they needed to provide effective representation; and
  • Although the proportion of those who directly accessed a barrister via the Public Access scheme was low, the research suggests this led to a stronger barrister/client relationship, clients were more likely to access a greater range of services from their barrister, and all of those who used this approach would use the scheme again.

A wider survey amongst people with a family law issue, showed that:

  • 83 per cent believed that barristers charge higher fees than solicitors and other legal services providers;
  • More than half of the respondents said they were not confident about making an informed decision on who to turn to for legal advice at the start of their family law matter;
  • Understanding of the role of barristers in the family law process was reasonably good and most (69 per cent) were aware that they can directly access some barristers without the need for a solicitor;
  • Looking ahead, a majority of all respondents said that they would consider using a barrister for legal advice in the future: 59 per cent would consider using a barrister for family law advice and 64 per cent would consider using a barrister for other legal advice; and
  • A majority of respondents (57%) understood that there are both regulated and unregulated providers of family law advice.