Legal aid cuts: In the new landscape, it's the lawyers who could now suffer

Public access work allows barristers to bypass solicitors to gain clients on fixed fees agreed in advance

It was once jokingly claimed that if you hired a divorce solicitor today you would need the services of an insolvency specialist 12 months later. Now experts believe it is divorce lawyers who may need to call for their bankruptcy colleagues.

Headlines about legal aid cuts have focused on the impact on families, but now legal experts are warning the impact may be greatest on the legal profession. The traditional close relationship between barristers and solicitors may be poised for a messy divorce.

Collette Price, a barrister based in Middlesbrough, thinks the traditional relationship between barristers and solicitors "is history". Previously solicitors would act as "gatekeepers" to barristers. However, with the loss of work, Ms Price points to public access work as an innovation to drive down fees. Public access work allows barristers to bypass solicitors to gain clients, on fixed fees agreed in advance.

"Everybody is trying to find ways to survive the legal aid cuts. Direct access to barristers is completely new and becoming more and more common." Ms Price said using barristers over solicitors meant "clients have to do certain things a solicitor would do. However, the client has more control."

The other main difference is that barristers are usually cheaper. As Ms Price says: "In the North-east, the average hourly rate for a partner barrister is £150 to £200, whereas a partner solicitor would be anything upwards of £200 per hour".

Ms Price also spoke of the problems barristers now have when taking on public access work, saying they to do it "subtly to avoid offending solicitors". This competition has lowered the amount of traditional work barristers get: "With the loss of legal aid, solicitors are referring fewer clients on to barristers, to make up for their loss in earnings."

Jo Edwards, chair of the family law organisation Resolution, acknowledged a "blurring of the traditional boundaries". Lawyers are being forced to "develop creative ideas to keep their business viable in the post-legal aid landscape", she said.

Ms Edwards also accepted diversification of legal services should theoretically lower fees. "While this can be bewildering for users, it also injects an element of healthy competition, which is ultimately good for the consumer."

She feared, however, that "the sad reality is that many will never be able to benefit from this changed landscape, because they simply cannot afford to access legal advice and are no longer eligible for legal aid."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea