The Legal Services Board have today lifted the restrictions on barristers accepting instructions directly from members of the public in family work. Previously under the Public Access Scheme barristers who, like me, had completed Public Access Training were prohibited from advising or representing clients in family matters (except in very very limited circumstances) or in immigration or criminal cases.
Although barristers are still not permitted to conduct litigation, and although many family cases will remain unsuitable for the instruction of a barrister without a solicitor being involved, in the right case a client may be able to significantly reduce her legal costs by instruction of a barrister direct.
You can find detailed information on the changes and how they are likely to operate in practice in the revised Guidance material here on the LSB website. The Guidance indicates that cases involving children are likely to be unsuitable for this kind of instruction, but whilst no doubt this is correct there will be instances where it will work perfectly well, for example perhaps where a litigant in person wishes to continue representing himself in respect of a children matter but wishes to obtain a one off written opinion or guidance about the future of the case or how he should go about things, which may well be cheaper than retaining a solicitor or even simply asking them for ad hoc advice.
I am in a minority of family barristers qualified to offer these new services to date, and I expect to be dusting off my Public Access File in the coming months...