December 2012

New online barrister portal launched in effort to harness direct access

A new scheme to promote direct access to the Bar through a centralised portal of barristers has been launched this month, marking the latest in a string of moves to increase direct instructions.

myBARRISTER, the brainchild of former Shearman & Sterling partner Ronald DeKoven, is a new online service that will allow individuals to search for a barrister in their area, select one from a relevant practice shortlist and submit their claim, without the need for a solicitor.

The initiative is currently being soft-launched and to begin with will focus on chambers in the South West, with the service set to sign up as many as 150 barristers at the start, with more planned in future.

The site is slated to go live at the end of the year and will be accompanied by a smartphone and tablet app.

To be eligible to sign up, barristers will need to be at least three years' qualified and have completed the Bar Council's direct access course. They will be charged a subscription fee to be listed, while the portal will be free to access for clients.

DeKoven was a banking and insolvency disputes partner at Shearman for around 20 years until 2000. He then joined 3-4 South Square before setting up his own chambers - DeKoven Chambers - this March.

DeKoven said: "The idea for myBARRISTER came after I took a direct access course earlier this year. I spent the day with a lot of very qualified barristers who had practices that were suffering because of the deregulation of the relationship between solicitors and barristers.

"They were looking for a way to change this through direct access without being blackballed by the solicitors who do instruct them. This made me think about what could be done to help. The key is raising public awareness and that's what myBARRISTER is trying to do through this initiative."

The CEO of myBARRISTER said: "Direct access to the Bar, while on the rise, is still not as widely known about as it should be.

"Through myBARRISTER we are looking to change this and raise the profile of the Bar to the lay person, as well as help small and medium-sized businesses find a quick and easy route to appointing a barrister without any unnecessary solicitors' fees first. It is about educating the person on the street with a dispute who the best legal representative is to help them resolve it."

The move comes amid a concerted push from the Bar in recent months to increase direct access in light of public funding cuts and increased competition from solicitors looking to bring more advocacy work in-house. The Bar Council this year launched a third-party account known as BARCO - allowing barristers to handle client money for the first time.

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