On the 4th of August, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) published research on consumers’ expectations and experience of working with barristers, with the goal of using an evidence-based approach to better understand consumer needs and barrister relationships. The research, which was undertaken by an independent research agency involved in-depth interviews with 50 consumers, all of whom had used a barrister in the two years preceding the project (therefore referred to as clients of barristers), this was followed up by focus group discussions involving 12 participants aiming to explore some of the issues raised in more detail. The research sample focused on both clients who had been referred to their barristers by a solicitor, and Public Access clients who chose their barristers directly.
The key findings from the research show that:
- Few clients are confident that they can deal with a legal matter when it first occurs. With it being a new experience for the majority of respondents
- Many clients who are referred by a solicitor to their barrister are referred to just one barrister, with little involvement in the decision
- At the start of their engagement with a barrister, most clients have little understanding of a barristers’ role and duties or how the relationship should work, with more work needed to be done by barristers to clarify this
- Most clients were satisfied with the way their barrister dealt with the legal process. Key indicators of good service identified by clients included: professionalism; approachability; friendliness and empathy; experience and knowledge; and accessibility
BSB Head of Policy and Research, Rupika Madhura, said: “This is an important piece of research which will help us gain a deeper insight into the experience of barristers’ clients. It complements others’ recent studies about consumers’ experience in the legal services market, and will help inform our work in various areas, in particular the review of the Code of Conduct expected of barristers.”