MANCHESTER, England, December 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
Stobart Barristers has revealed almost a third of UK barristers want to offer their services direct to members of the public over the busy Christmas period.
That means people charged with criminal offences over the festive season will, for the first time, have direct access to a panel of experienced, expert criminal law barristers.
Stobart Group Legal Director Trevor Howarth says more than 4000 barristers have applied to work for Stobart Barristers' ground-breaking direct access scheme - a number equivalent to nearly a third of the UK's 12,500 self-employed barristers.
That has enabled the transport giant's legal arm to form a unique panel of 1200 barristers and QCs, all of whom are keen to deal direct with clients at an agreed-up-front price, removing the need for a solicitor and giving clients more affordable access to expert legal advice.
Mr Howarth, who launched Stobart Barristers to much fanfare back in May, said the demand from barristers for places on the Stobart panel was indicative of the changing legal landscape.
He explained, "We've had barristers from right across the country physically coming into the office to speak to us about joining our panel - and that says it all.
"Increasingly in the legal sector, in respect of privately funded cases, we're increasingly seeing instances of solicitors - who have traditionally been the first port of call in criminal cases - hanging onto those cases for longer before handing them over to barristers.
"You can link that to changes in the economy and to diminishing legal aid rates, but the result is that barristers have had to wait longer before cases come to them and, as a result, there has been a reduction in their remuneration.
"That's why so many have been keen to come and work direct with clients through us. There are 12,500 barristers in the UK and we've had contact from almost a third of them. But we've always been about quality rather than quantity.
"We're at a point where we have a panel of about 1200 and that's enough to give people direct access to a genuine expert in their field - and with criminal cases in particular, that's vital."
In terms of legal issues, Christmas is generally associated with driving offences, but other kinds of criminal offences also spike over the festive season. For anyone who finds themselves caught up in a criminal case, it can be a distressing time.
That, says Mr Howarth, is exactly why having direct access to an expert opinion whenever you need it, rather than having to go through a solicitor, is so vital - particularly at this time of year.
He said, "As we get closer to Christmas, we will see an increase in people looking for expert help with criminal cases.
"It might be the case that you've got an office Christmas party, someone has too much to drink, gets involved in a fracas, even just through trying to break one up, and before that person knows what's going on, they're bundled into the back of a van and taken away for a night in the cells before court the next morning.
"In these cases, people want a route to the best possible legal representation, especially when a bail application is required. That means private barristers. The question for these people is, 'How do I get in touch with these experts?'
"The answer is Stobart Barristers."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Stobart Barristers is a subsidiary of the Stobart Group and was launched in May 2012.
Stobart Group, under Group Legal Director Trevor Howarth, began instructing barristers directly in 2008 and made significant savings on its legal bills. The service was rolled out the general public as a result.
Direct Public Access legislation was passed in 2004, allowing the public direct access to instruct a barrister without the aid of a solicitor. Despite this, the legislation is not well known. Populous Omnibus research has shown only 14% of UK adults are aware of it and only 22% say they would know how to engage a barrister without going first to a solicitor.
Stobart Barristers' panel contains barristers and QCs from every field of the law, each of whom is willing to give an expert opinion at an agreed-up-front, fixed price within 7 days.
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SOURCE Stobart Barristers