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The PDF entitled 'Public Access Guidance for Lay Clients' (from the Bar Standards Board) compares and contrasts Public Access Barristers (abbreviated as AB) and Solicitors. Two key differences are the question of an AB's ability to 'conduct litigation, and availability of an AB.

However, besides the similarities (eg 1 AB is cheaper than 1 regular B and 1 Solicitor) and differences mentioned in that PDF, what are the other similarities and differences?

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I would say all the similarities and differences between approaching a barrister directly and going through a solicitor are set out in the PDF.

The historical division of barristers and solicitors is discussed in the document. Traditionally, solicitors took on cases and did the 'behind the scenes' preparation before a case went to trial, and barristers represented that client in the courtroom using the prepared materials. You needed to go through a solicitor in order to be represented by a barrister; there was no way of approaching a barrister directly yourself as a lay person.

While this has changed with the Public Access Barrister scheme, this way of instructing a barrister is still seen as the 'default' method. In the usual scheme of things, you, as a client, would deal with a solicitor, and they would then instruct a barrister to represent you in court.

In the Public Access Barristers scheme, you, the client, effectively miss out the solicitor stage and you approach the barrister directly. But this leaves something of a gap.

In the typical client-solicitor-barrister model, the solicitor's role is to prepare the case for the barrister: collating documents for court, for example. The barrister then takes the papers, reads them, prepares an argument based on those documents and puts the client's case in a courtroom. (This isn't always the case, as the document makes clear: some barristers are not qualified to conduct litigation, for example, whereas some solicitors are qualified to represent clients in court. It's more the typical and historical model.)

In the Public Access Barrister scheme, there is no solicitor to prepare the case. From the PDF provided, this means that:

  1. this is cheaper, as you're not paying for two lawyers; but conversely:
  2. you will have to undertake some of the preparation yourself, e.g. collating the papers, and
  3. there are some cases which are too complex for a client to take directly to a barrister, because a solicitor would be required to prepare all of the documents necessary for the trial.

In terms of similarities, you will still end up receiving the advice and/or the representation of a barrister; you simply won't be going through a third party, but will be dealing directly with that barrister.

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