Bar Standards Board Risk Outlook 2016 Review

Hi, we would like to take two minutes to tell you about how we operate at ShenSmith Barristers and just a few of our strategic aims.

Reviewing the Bar Standards Board’s Risk Outlook Document 2016

Earlier this week, we were very interested to read the Bar Standard Board’s (BSB) risk outlook documents and how as a business, there appear to be several opportunities and challenges for us both.

With the kind permission of the Bar Standards Board (BSB), We’re going to refer to two very interesting infographics they put together that identify the legal supply and the legal demand. The legal services market provides a huge opportunity for barristers and their services. What is very interesting is the percentage of people using a barrister. I suggest you take you a look.

So, there is the opportunity and of course the challenge. But how are we delivering? Well, we know only too well that business owners, SMEs, startups, entrepreneurs and individuals are often deterred from seeking legal advice due to the perceived costs. It’s just simply too expensive. But it doesn’t have to be that way, that 63% of the public do not believe professional legal advice is an affordable option for ordinary people, and that the perceived cost is main barrier to accessing legal services for small businesses.

Cost-effective legal advice

At ShenSmith Barristers, we understand that only too well indeed. Co-founder Daniel ShenSmith was in this very position when I introduced him directly to a barrister for legal advice some years ago. Our aim is to provide a cost-effective route for SMEs, businesses and startups with Direct Access to barristers. It’s really that simple. Part of the solution is by only offering fixed fees. A fixed cost that is agreed in advance, so there are no surprises. It is what the consumers of the legal services want.

Flexibility with your legal costs

We also aim to unbundle, this reduces costs, allows the consumers again as the BSB suggests, to choose the parts that they are comfortable to undertake and those which they pay the barrister to undertake.

So it is very much tapping in and paying for the legal services as when you want it. It gives you – the client – that choice. The ShenSmith way of working gives you, the client, flexibility and this innovative new model as with others are emerging to be recognised as increasing part of the supply.

It’s a very exciting opportunity indeed. Thanks for listening.

As always, for further updates, you can follow our Twitter feed @SSBarristers or follow #Barrister.

Need to resolve a legal dispute?

Or if you have a legal dispute, you need cost-effective help with, then give us a call on 0203 627 9580, or you can email the team at


Understanding Inquests, with Stephen Harvey QC – ShenSmith Barristers


What is an inquest?

Inquests and public enquiries are unlike ordinary court hearings, because, as their name implies, they are inquisitorial proceedings, whose primary purpose is to investigate a situation and to arrive at a conclusion. Whether that conclusion concerns the cause of someone’s death in the case of inquest, or a government appointed inspector’s recommendation to a government body, in a relation to a matter of public interest.

Why are inquests held?

Inquests are held in order to establish the cause of death in situations, where the death are not natural causes. Those who become involved in inquests are obviously the bereaved of the person, who has very sadly died, and the person who may be found have been wholly or partially responsible for that death. For example, the driver of the car involved in an accident, in which the decease died. Whichever side the individual is on, they will undoubtedly have a vested interest in the outcome; whether it’ll be an inquest or enquiry, the adversarial skills of an experienced barrister in cross-examining witnesses and making speeches (what lawyers call submissions) to the coroner in an inquest, the inspector of an enquiry, can make or break the case.

Can I bring a barrister into an inquest?

The huge advantage of being represented in either type of the hearing is that the experienced advocate can bring a professional and objective detachment to the case; unaffected by understandable emotion affecting those, who are personally involved, and unaffected by any personal agendas. The independent and experienced advocate is able to put the most persuasive case before the hearing to the very best advantage of the side that he is representing. It cannot be overstated that effective representation during the course of the inquest in particular, can be pivotal if not determinative as to the likelihood of any subsequence proceedings, particular of a criminal nature.

Can an inquest lead to a prosecution?

If a prosecution does follow, then the way which the evidence unfolded and was addressed before the inquest, can itself have a very real and direct bearing upon any subsequence trial. There may also be consequential civil claims by the estate of the decease person, or an injured employee who’s seeking damages. In both inquests and enquiries, continuity of representation is obviously a vital element. And if the case becomes a criminal prosecution, it will involve considerable adversarial skills being required before the jury.

How can I prepare for an inquest?

I have the resources of a team of highly experienced investigators from a variety of backgrounds, who can assist under my direction with the preparation of any case that goes before an inquest. I can assist you with the selection and briefing of any necessary experts that are required.

Free Initial Consultation – Stuart W Stevens

Well, of course, one of the other benefits is that if you do come to someone and you don’t know whether you have got a case, most people, most barristers I shall say who do Public Access work and are Public Access qualified will sit down and give you a free consultation at the beginning just to access whether you’ve got a case and give you the initial advice. In many occurrences and instances, people will come to a barrister, say “ Do I have a case?” and after looking at it, examining it, they may not have a case. It is one of the first steps in any event. If you are on the fence about whether or not to bring a case, why not use the 15 minutes, half an hour, even an hour of discussions just to see whether that is the case, you can continue with that.

Direct access to barristers: “No Surprises”


Will the barrister tell me what the fees are in advance?

When I am instructed on your case, I like to keep everything as simple as possible. The worst thing in the world is when a client turns to me and says, (after a piece of work has been done) “ oh, I wasn’t expecting you to do that.” Or “ I wasn’t expecting to have to pay for that service.”

I often find that the easiest way to run a case, and to organise a case for someone, is to break it down into manageable sections, and come to an agreement with them before any work is done, about what work is actually being done , and what that work will cost.

Organising in advance like that will mean that no one is surprised by any fees. So everything and all the work done is arranged good time prior to the work being done, and for a fixed fee that won’t catch you by surprise.

Taking the First Step – Instruct a Barrister Directly.

When Should I Get In Touch With a Barrister?

The sooner you come the better, because the sooner you come to someone, the better they would be able to take instructions from you, the more time they would be able to dedicate to your case, and the more work they can put into it. But, no, there is no bar of when you can come – and of course, if you call up and I am free, I am not already in court for someone else, we can take instructions, I can take instructions from you. And I can appear in court the very next day, even on the same day if it is complete emergency, you desperately need it. But of course, going to someone in plenty of time is often the best thing, because that means you can prepare the case properly and run the case properly.

Can I speak to a barrister without having an actual court filing?

Often as well, if you come, because you have one of those niggling feelings at the back of your mind, and you think, “ I don’t know whether I’ve got a case or not, but I think something is not right. I’d like to talk to someone about it.” Then, that’s the perfect time to come to someone. Because, of course, often things can be resolved before going to court. There’re many steps you can take to preemptively sort the matter out, and sort the problem out without having to go to court. So the best thing you can do is to take that first step and speak to someone.

Litigation Barristers from ShenSmith Barristers

Hi, I am Jonanthan Maskew, one of the directors and co-founder of ShenSmith Barristers. One of the aims for 2016 is to engage with businesses and SMEs to allow a wider communication and understanding of how we work.

What is a ‘dual capacity barrister’ ?

Many of our team now have dual capacity to act as litigators and/or barristers, which allows you as a client to come to us for one stop litigation support. The earlier involvement of a barrister with that capacity allows you to have much greater control of cost and of specific cases without the needs to go to solicitors and barristers. So that has real cost-effective and added value for you as a client.

How does ShenSmith Barristers offer dual capacity barrister services?

One of the aims for ShenSmith Barristers is to put together that one stop model. The ShenSmith model is a new model, one of the many that are emerging in the new legal services environment, which allow you, the client much greater control. You are not having to go to solicitors and barristers to repeat the same instructions, it allows you to come to the barrister in the capacity that he has to ensure that that repetitive or duplication of costs is actually at its bare minimum.

We work with businesses and SMEs, entrepreneurs and startups over the last 12 months, and we monitored the process of certain cases. The cost benefit is huge. We know the costs to come to one of our barristers who has that dual capacity is less than 50% of that going to a solicitor. So that is one of the key drivers. We know it adds value, and we know that we are adding real real benefit to the clients.

What is litigation funding?

One of the aims of the ShenSmith Barrister model is also to ensure that clients have the benefit of not only litigation and barrister skills, but also to provide litigation funding where it’s necessary and/or appropriate. What it is allowing clients to do, is to ensure that at an early stage, a barrister gives an opinion; on the basis of that opinion, we can then secure with our preferred partners litigation funding, which allows the funding of the legal aspect of your case moving forward.

So, the whole package is becoming much more widely understood for people, who have got legal disputes to actually think again about how they can address that legal need.

ShenSmith Barristers in calibration with other partners are finally putting together parts of the jigsaw which allow you to do that. It’s a new model – litigation funding will and is becoming much more commonly accepted. And we look forward to working with you in those innovative way to ensure that you, the client has real value.

The Benefits of Direct Access to a barrister, with Stephen Harvey QC

We interviewed Stephen Harvey QC about the benefits of coming to a barrister directly:

How are solicitors and barristers different?

Solicitors and barristers have traditionally performed very different functions. Whilst the solicitor has been responsible for briefing the barrister, the preparation of the client’s case, and in dealing with all of the administration. The barrister’s involvement has been to advise throughout those preparations, as to how the case should be put together, and then to eventually represent the client in court.

Nowadays, however, solicitors and barristers can perform much the same role as each other. However, there still remains a big distinction between instructing a firm of solicitors and instructing a barrister directly. And you will find that there are many advantages in going to the barrister directly.

So what are the advantages of instructing a barrister directly?

The first main advantage of instructing a barrister directly:

The first, and many find the single biggest advantage is that you will deal directly, at all times, only with your barrister in relation to your case, and no one else. A Direct Access barrister therefore provides might be termed that ‘perfect continuity’ from the very beginning of the case. Many of my Direct Access clients have said to me after their cases have concluded that to have had direct telephone and indeed video contact with me throughout the preparation of the case, at any reasonable hour, was one of the most comforting aspects of instructing me directly. And that sentiment was repeated, particularly by those who had gone down the traditional route and had instructed barristers through solicitors in the past; and who then could only have had access to their barrister through their solicitor. In dealing with me, they appreciated not being pushed from pillar to post, from partner to assistant, or referred to a trainee, or to a secretary, and then having to repeat their story over and over again, in order to ensure that their lawyer knew what it was they wanted them to know.

And this very important difference was because, unlike solicitors, each barrister runs their individual practice. Unlike solicitors, barristers do not have partners or assistants to deal with their cases. Therefore, when you want to make contact with me, you will never be put on to another barrister in relation to anything to do with your case.

The second advantage of instructing a barrister directly

The second main advantage, and it’s a very important one, is obviously the one of cost: you only pay one lawyer’s fees.

The third advantage of instructing a barrister directly

And thirdly, by going to the barrister directly, you will get the advice and any representation that you need very much more quickly. Some cases will require considerable investigative and preparatory work. And I have many years worked alongside many highly experienced investigators from a variety of the backgrounds whom I hand-pick on a case-by-case basis to deal with client’s case.

When should I contact my barrister?

By being instructed at an early stage, I can direct operations, and thereby ensure that the preparations are properly focused, and that the conduct of the case is carried out in the most effective way.

When can I contact my barrister?

If you have a problem, I will happily speak with you about it, without any obligation on your part; in order to establish what ways for might be, that might be available to you. This can be done by telephone or secure conference video link. Just get in touch, and we can arrange mutually convenient time.

Can I insist on a barrister of my choice?

If you go to a solicitor, and the solicitor wants to instruct a barrister on your behalf, then you are the lay client, you are the one who is paying for the service; you are perfectly entitled to say I want X or Y to be my barrister.

Now, the solicitor will normally from his own professional experience know which barristers are good, which aren’t so good, or which are good at certain matters, or which

aren’t so good at certain matters. And he will certainly want to instruct somebody he knows. And he will probably want to instruct somebody who is in a chambers where he already has an existing relationship.

It’s a matter for you whether you want to accept the advice of that solicitor to instruct a barrister he is suggesting, or whether you want to select your own barrister. That is an entire matter for you, but you are certainly entitled to select your own barrister and say to the solicitor, “ Look, that barrister covers this area of law.” for example, “ I heard he is very good, my neighbour had him.” or some such other recommendation, “therefore, I would like you to instruct that particular barrister.” And the solicitor has to do what you say, if you stick to your guns.


Image credits:
“The List”

Isn’t a barrister more expensive than a solicitor?

Isn’t all legal advice expensive?

Well, you might be surprised, because solicitors have very high costs. After all, they have high street offices, they have to pay rates and business rates, they have to pay bills, they have to staff those offices with secretaries, clerks, paralegals, associate solicitors and partners. They are subjected to a very high degree of regulatory control by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). They have to pay their professional fees and so on. When you add all of that up, it’s a very high financial burden upon solicitors.

How does a barrister’s fees compare to those of a solicitor?

Whereas, if you come to a direct access barrister such as myself, I don’t have those cost, I don’t have a high street office, I don’t have the same staffing cost, I don’t even have the same regulatory burdens. Therefore, I can charge you fees, which are, in the main just for me representing you.  I can often do it, if you require it, I would be prepared to suggest doing it on a fixed fee basis. So you know what the fees are going to be, before you incur those fees. You know these fees are going to be limited. It is not to be “Right, the taxi metre has start running, and you don’t know where it is going to end up”. So in fact, although, it may surprise you, instructing a barrister can actually save you, sometimes thousands of pounds.



Image Credits:
Howard Lake