In the past it was only possible to instruct a barrister through a solicitor. If you needed professional help with a legal problem your first contact would need to be with a solicitor and then your solicitor would help you identify a suitable barrister (if the services of a barrister was considered necessary).
More recently, the rules were changed and individuals (or companies or organisations) can now approach a barrister directly providing that barrister has completed ‘direct access’ (or ‘public access’) training.
The benefit of instructing a barrister directly is that it will usually be less expensive. Most barristers operate as as self-employed individuals despite being part of a collective (a Chambers). This means that a barrister will usually not have the significant overheads of a multi-person law firm.
There will still be many cases where an individual would be best advised to consult a solicitor and instruct a barrister (if necessary) in the traditional way.
It will only usually be appropriate to instruct a barrister directly if you are comfortable ‘conducting litigation’ personally.
Unless the barrister you wish to instruct directly has an additional authorisation to ‘conduct litigation’ then there are some matters that you will need to do yourself, for example
- Issuing a Claim,
- Acknowledging Service of a Claim,
- Filing a Defence to a Claim, and
- Paying appropriate fees to the Court.
Those are matters that a barrister cannot do on your behalf (unless they have the additional authorisation). A barrister can assist in those matters, for example by drafting a Defence (preparing the written document) so that the individual can then file that document at Court and/or serve it on the other party personally.
There are also cases which might be particularly complex or contentious and even if you are comfortable conducting litigation yourself you might be better advised to instruct a solicitor.