Hardwicke Building survey finds strong business support for Direct Access to the Bar

20 Feb 2007

Hardwicke Building has announced the findings of a survey designed to test market perception after two years of Direct Access to the Bar.

Focusing on in-house legal counsel, company secretaries and commercial directors of medium to large UK businesses, potentially significant opportunities for the commercial Bar are demonstrated, at a time when the whole legal profession is undergoing a significant revolution.

The survey found 95% of respondents welcome direct access, but only half feel that they effectively understand how they can access the Bar.  34% of respondents instructed a barrister direct or through an in-house solicitor in the last 2 years, compared to 63% instructing through an external solicitor.

In-house lawyers are the most likely users of direct services although 59% of commercial directors thought it was possible they would also instruct a barrister directly, providing a significant opportunity to provide services to this market.

The vast majority of respondents in all roles welcomed Direct Access but less than half felt they understood sufficiently well how they can access the Bar.

Commenting on the survey findings, Hardwicke Chief Executive Ann Buxton said: “This is Hardwicke’s first market perceptions analysis and indicates that there is an increasing recognition of the specialist services that the Bar can provide to corporates users and in-house counsel and the potentially cost effective manner in which these are delivered. The regulatory and structural changes in the profession provide significant opportunities for chambers to provide the framework in which commercial clients will feel comfortable to consult a barrister.”

Chairman of the Bar, Geoffrey Vos QC commented: “This survey…has yielded interesting results.  The degree of interest shown in Direct Access is very encouraging…and recognises the Bar’s capacity to alter the way it delivers legal services to the market…this augers well for the future prospects of Direct Access….”