Clerksroom Direct allows anyone to access the bar online, and includes the ability to instruct a lawyer, obtain a quote, manage a case, or make an online payment.
The web-based service, which went live on January 1 2015, has grown out of the successful Clerksroom service, which debuted in 2001, and represents a novel way to search for and instruct a barrister directly.
Barristers, who specialize in courtroom advocacy, and drafting opinions, were historically hired primarily by solicitors in England and other common law jurisdictions, but moves in recent years toward “direct access” have led to more people hiring barristers directly.
Funding cuts, increased competition from solicitors and the launch of BARCO, which allows barristers to handle client money, have accelerated the push towards direct access.
A number of services have emerged in response, such as my BARRISTER, an online service that came on to the market in 2013.
Clerksroom Direct currently offers access to 1000 accredited barristers.
I met Stephen Ward, the brainchild behind Clersksroom Direct last year, and was struck by his enthusiasm and desire to widen access to the legal profession.
Barristers are self-employed, so the Clerksroom Direct service acts as a type of gateway to match up those seeking legal advice or representation with a suitably skilled barrister.
The service is aimed at members of the public who would like to instruct a barrister directly, companies who require legal advice, drafting or representation, and in-house lawyers who would prefer to deal with barristers directly rather than go through a solicitor.
Most of the barristers offer a fixed fee and a free 30-minute telephone discussion.
According to Clerksroom Direct:
“Users can select up to three barristers and then either invite the barristers to provide a fee quote for your enquiry or you can suggest a fee and see if the barrister is willing to do it for the fee you propose. Barristers will contact you through the portal to say they either accept, reject or wish to quote a different fee. You remain in total control of the service via your login. Once you accept a quote, payment is made via our online card payment system and the barrister is then committed to the fee and timescale you have agreed.”