We at CFLP perform a number of roles for our clients. We act as sounding boards, advisers, negotiators, mediators, collaborators and advocates, to name but a few. Unlike practitioners in many other firms of solicitors, we pride ourselves on our advocacy and will often represent clients at court hearings ourselves rather than instructing a barrister. However, where we consider it in our clients’ interests, we will instruct a barrister, or “Counsel” as you may hear us refer to them, to advise in conference and/or represent a client at a court hearing, particularly if it is a final hearing where the judge will be asked to make a final decision. We only instruct barristers where we consider that they will add significant value; but in the right case, at the right time, they really do. We thought we should explain why.

Historically, the legal profession was split along two lines. When you were involved in legal proceedings, you would go to a solicitor who would prepare all the papers in your case, and he (for usually back then it was ‘he’) would then pass them on to a barrister to represent you before the court. This model was the same across all areas of law and is the foundation of what endures today, to a great extent. However, in modern times the lines are much more blurred between what work is solicitors’ work and what work belongs to barristers. Whereas formerly clients instructing or liaising with barristers directly was unheard of twenty years ago, just as was a solicitor arguing a client’s case in the Court of Appeal, legal services have been de-formalised and deregulated to such an extent that in many cases, solicitors and barristers are able to perform the same roles for clients. It’s just a question of client choice as to which you choose to instruct.

Solicitors are appearing more and more regularly in court, and at ever higher levels. More solicitors are being appointed to the judiciary, which previously was exclusively the preserve of barristers. The professions are edging ever closer and in some cases are vying for the same work. That said, the barristers we instruct at CFLP are particular experts in their very specific fields. We are more likely than not to use them for their impressive advocacy skills, because they may well have the “ear of the court”, or because they can add a specialist opinion on a particularly tricky area of law. On the other hand, one of the advantages of working with CFLP is that as a close five-partner and only-partner firm, we have massive expertise under one roof, and are generous in sharing it, so that we rarely need to turn to external sources for second opinions as such: usually, second, third and fourth are available over a cup of tea!

Other reasons why we would instruct a barrister in your case include if your case concerns a particular highly-technical specialism, if our travel costs to a particular hearing together with the costs of preparation make it uneconomical for us to represent you, or if we are unavailable for some reason. But the specialist advocacy skill that barristers can provide is often the best reason. Excellent case presentation can be a pivotal factor is important hearings such as FDRs in financial cases, and the ability of a specialist barrister to focus exclusively on your case for a period of time in preparation, for a fixed fee, can also make it economically sensible for a barrister to be instructed. Finally, we don’t do advocacy in trials, where specialist skills in witness handling cross-examination are essential, so we would always instruct a barrister if your case is one of those rare ones to go all the way to a judge’s final decision.

At CFLP, we take the interests of our clients very seriously and we always try to match the personality of the client and the issues in the case to the barrister we recommend to represent you. We work with barristers with whom we have good relationships, whose people skills are excellent, and who are specialists in the particular area of law where your interests lie, whether this is children, emergency remedies, financial matters, international aspects or anything else. We consider that the barristers we use are excellent resources to call upon when required to enhance a client’s experience and prospects, and we know that in this role they will play a part with CFL P’s clients for the foreseeable future, wherever we see that there is value to be gained for the client.  Do give us a call if you would like to discuss any of the matters raised in this blog.