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Barristers are serving family law clients well, says new BSB research

The BSB has today published the findings of its research with people who have used barristers’ services during family legal proceedings. The findings show that most of those who took part in
the research were positive about the service they received from their barrister.

The research is the most in-depth the BSB has undertaken with barristers’ clients to date.

The results indicate that when a family law matter goes to court, the majority of people are represented by a solicitor-advocate, and around one third use a barrister. As most family law matters never go to court, this means that only 13 per cent of people with a family law issue of any type used a barrister.

Interviews with respondents who used a barrister highlighted the following:

  • Most clients were positive about the service they received from their barrister;
  • But some clients referred by solicitors highlighted the limited contact they had with their barrister before going to court, and that this led to problems with the service they received, such as
    the barrister not providing enough information to the client, or the barrister not having all the details they needed to provide effective representation; and
  • Although the proportion of those who directly accessed a barrister via the Public Access scheme was low, the research suggests this led to a stronger barrister/client relationship, clients were more likely to access a greater range of services from their barrister, and all of those who used this approach would use the scheme again.

A wider survey amongst people with a family law issue, showed that:

  • 83 per cent believed that barristers charge higher fees than solicitors and other legal services providers;
  • More than half of the respondents said they were not confident about making an informed decision on who to turn to for legal advice at the start of their family law matter;
  • Understanding of the role of barristers in the family law process was reasonably good and most (69 per cent) were aware that they can directly access some barristers without the need for a
  • Looking ahead, a majority of all respondents said that they would consider using a barrister for legal advice in the future: 59 per cent would consider using a barrister for family law advice and 64 per cent would consider using a barrister for other legal advice; and
  • A majority of respondents (57%) understood that there are both regulated and unregulated providers of family law advice.

BSB Director of Policy and Strategy Ewen MacLeod said: “We are pleased that most of the respondents who used a barrister for a family law matter were satisfied with the level of service that they received. But our survey also shows that many people facing a family law matter are unable to access appropriate legal advice for a variety of reasons. They may choose to represent themselves in
court or turn to unregulated advisors for help. Having obtained a more complete picture of the experiences of family law clients via this research, it will help inform our future regulatory response
to these important issues.”

You can read the full report here.

About the research methodology

The research consisted of a survey of 1200 people who had recently had to deal with a family law issue, followed by interviews with 50 clients who had used a barrister during their family law case. The research study was one of the most comprehensive surveys that the BSB has ever undertaken with barristers’ clients.

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: