The aim of this article is to enable you to get the best out of your direct access barrister. Getting the best means being happy with the service you have been given. Here is the step by step to getting there:
1. Choose the right barrister.
Barristers only qualify after rigorous assessment. They are required to keep their skills up to date. You are highly unlikely to get a ‘bad barrister’. The vast majority of barristers are good, but you need to choose the right sort of ‘good’ for you. You may want to rely on a friend’s recommendation but do ask what made that barrister good. Otherwise, barristers’ clerks are the best place to start. Clerks are highly skilled in their own right; they will know their barristers’ strengths and personalities, how that barrister works, and which areas of law the barrister specialises in.
Prepare before you call the clerks: be ready to tell them what your dispute is about and how you would like it handled. Some barristers are skilled in negotiation whilst others take a more combative approach. Be ready to tell the clerks what you want in your barrister. In that initial call you should tell the clerks about court dates or other timescales involved. The clerks will discuss fees with you and can explain why fees vary so much between barristers. The other major resource available to you is the chamber’s website – each barrister will have a full profile which should enable you to make that all important final decision.
2. Preparation, preparation, preparation.
Once you have identified your barrister, ask for a conference in chambers (the name for a Barrister’s offices) or immediately before the hearing if time is an issue. The extent to which your barrister is able to assist you will, to some extent, be determined by how much information the barrister is given. Arriving at a conference with a bag full of unsorted papers will waste valuable time. You should sort your documents into chronological order and separate them into correspondence, documents/evidence, court orders, and finally your own notes. Send a copy of those papers into chambers before your conference.
If you don’t have access to copying facilities the clerks will make a copy for you. Ideally you should prepare a short document for your barrister to accompany your papers. It should tell the barrister what your problem is, the result that you would like to achieve, and provide a short history including efforts made to resolve the problem. If you have specific questions do list those too. You and your barrister can then work through your questions together and come up with a plan of action for your case. By the time you leave your conference you should have a clear understanding of the strengths and any weaknesses in your case, any evidence which you need to collect, and how you and your barrister are going to work together to try to achieve your desired outcome.
3. How to have an effective day at court.
Making the best of a very stressful day at court starts before the day itself. Make sure you have sent everything to your barrister, the court and to the other side on time and do ask them to acknowledge receipt. A couple of days before the hearing it’s helpful to send your barrister an updating email even if it’s just to say that nothing has changed. Arrive at court on time so that you are calm. Most courts have no parking facilities and are in areas where the on-street parking is limited. If you are running late do let the clerks at chambers know.
When you arrive at court you check in at the usher’s desk and your barrister will come and find you. Your barrister will run the case for you at court and guide you through the process. If you have followed steps 1 and 2 above, you have the right barrister for you, that barrister will be fully prepared, and you will be in the best position to achieve your desired outcome.
Your barrister, and the barrister’s clerks, are there to help you through what could be the most stressful time of your life. Help your barrister to help you.
If you need some advice or require representation at an upcoming hearing give the clerks at Barrister For Me a call on 01273 810011 or get in touch using our contact form. They will guide you through the process and help you to make that all important choice of barrister.
By Julie Stather