You can approach a barrister directly for advice. In many cases, a barrister can be engaged by your solicitor but there are many instances where you can brief a barrister directly.
Barristers are not obliged to accept instructions directly from a person who is not a solicitor (Rule 21). Rule 22 identifies disclosure obligations where counsel chooses to accept instructions directly from persons who are not solicitors or officers of government departments or agencies whose usual duties include engaging lawyers.
Costs disclosure obligations differ in respect of direct access matters as compared to instructions received via a solicitor. The Victorian Bar website contains information and templates suitable for use in respect of direct access matters.
If accepting instructions directly from persons who are not solicitors, counsel remain obliged to limit their practice to barristers’ work. If asked to take on work, or engage in conduct, which is not barristers’ work or which appears likely to require work which is not barristers’ work, a barrister must inform the person so asking of the effect of the rules regulating the work which may be undertaken by barristers (as relevant) and that, if it be the case, solicitors are capable of providing the relevant services (Rule 16)
Retention of Documents
It is advisable for barristers who choose to accept direct access briefs to maintain a register which records (i) the name and address of the client; (ii) the name of each other party to the matter; (iii) the dates on which instructions were received and accepted; and (iv) a short description of the services the barrister has agreed to provide.
It is also advisable for barristers who takes on direct access matters to retain:
Solicitors are generally obliged to retain client documents for 7 years after the completion or termination of the engagement (Rule 14.2 of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015). While there is no equivalent rule for barristers, it is advisable to retain records at least until the expiry of any limitation of action period.
When is a Direct Access Brief possible for members of the Public?
A barrister may be engaged directly by members of the public in matters where a solicitor is not required.
BarristerCONNECT is a self-service portal offers to facilitate direct engagement with barristers in criminal matters in the Magistrates' Court. It provides a convenient and secure way to connect with barristers at the Victorian Bar.
A number of types of criminal matters in the Magistrates’ Court may be suitable for a Direct Access brief, including pleas of guilty, pleas of not guilty and bail applications.
Examples may include driving offences, dishonesty offences such as theft and fraud, robbery, burglary, assault related offences including sexual assault, drug offences and many other types of offences. For more information on how to directly brief a barrister for a criminal matter in the Magistrates' Court, see BarristerCONNECT's online portal.
If your matter is suitable for a direct access brief, the barrister will provide you with an information to a prospective client disclosure statement as required under Rule 22 of the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015. This must be signed and returned to your barrister before they can act for you.
There are certain cases that are not suitable for Direct Access briefs. Further information can be found in the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015. Every case is unique and the barrister or barrister's clerk you engage will discuss this with you.
The barrister will send you a costs disclosure and fee agreement to confirm your engagement. The barrister will discuss with you what infomration should be provided to instruct them - the brief.
A typical brief might include:
The brief can be sent in electronic or hard copy form. The barrister or the barrister's clerk will discuss this with you in more detail.
Corporate solicitors, solicitors employed by government or other agencies and patent attorneys can brief barristers directly without going through an external legal firm. See our page on Direct Briefing for more information.