Some may think this a bit forward, but I thought it would be useful if I posted on a practical subject-how to get the most out of your barrister.
As someone who takes instructions mainly from solicitors, but also from members of the public and companies, I will break the post down into two parts.
Instructions are important, they enable a barrister to get to the heart of the issue within minutes and can structure the way in which a barrister will begin to think about the case. However, not all papers contain instructions and this can often lead to a barrister spending more time getting to grips with the case and therefore a higher fee.
Also instructions which include lines such as “Counsel will see the facts of the case from the pleadings and witness statements” are as useful as having no instructions.
Instructions which point out how amazing the clients claim/defence is are rarely accurate. Yes, some claims/defences can be strong but in the majority of cases, there are nuances to a case, it is these nuances that can mean the difference between winning and losing. By highlighting them to Counsel, you are giving Counsel the opportunity to think about them, rather than spending more time (and cost) searching through the papers for the nub of the case.
If there is a particular deadline or objective that you wish Counsel to achieve, then it helps for this to be stated in the instructions. If the work needs to be completed at particularly short notice, then Barristers are generally good at working to tight deadlines, the important point is that the deadlines have been discussed with Counsel in advance.
It also saves time if the documents are indexed, ideally in chronological order in a ring binder.
If you are sending documents electronically, then it helps if you leave extra time for these to be printed out as this can often be time consuming.
Public Access Clients
Some barristers are qualified to accept instructions directly from companies or members of the public. You can find out more information about this on my website here. Guidance is also available on the Bar Standards Board website, a copy of which I provide to my clients.
I am very clear with clients that I take on cases depending on my work commitments and the nature of the case. If the client would be better off utilising the services of Counsel whilst also having a solicitor instructed, I will highlight this when the issue arises. Sometimes, having two people working on a case can be more effective than having one.
As noted above, it helps if documents are provided to Counsel in a chronological order in a ring binder.
I would also suggest preparing a summary of the case for the Barrister to read at your first meeting (or you can send it in advance of the meeting), try to keep it as impartial as possible.
By using your barrister in the most effective way possible – minimising their reading time, minimising the amount of time that it will take them to get to grips with your case, this is likely to result in lower fees.
A good Barrister will discuss fees with a client and will answer questions that the client has about fees. Some work will be taken on the basis of an hourly rate, which can vary from barrister to barrister. Some work will be taken on the basis of a fixed fee, i.e. the work will be done for a fixed sum. Almost all Barristers will charge VAT.
The important point in relation to fees, is that if you have any concerns in relation to fees, then you ask your Barrister about any concerns that you may have. Most will have heard the question before and will be able to answer any question directly. Don’t be afraid to ask!
A surprising one, but it also helps if you bring along some ID, most likely a passport to your first meeting. If you are a director of a company, some proof of director status may also assist.
This is because money laundering is becoming a higher profile issue and it will help your Barrister’s administration of the case if this can be dealt with early on.