Direct Professional Access

The scheme

Since May 1990 many bodies and their members have been granted direct professional access (DPA) to members of the Bar of Ireland in non-contentious matters. The scheme does not extend to contentious matters (for example, court appearances) but only legal opinion. The scheme means members of approved professional bodies can instruct barristers directly without going through a solicitor for opinions. The bodies must formally apply for inclusion on the Register and satisfy The Bar of Ireland that:

  1. their members provide skilled and specialist services; and
  2. the body has a significant need for a barrister’s services.
  3. The body must also show that their affairs and conduct are regulated by a constitution that governs:
  • their standards
  • how people become members of their body; and
  • how the body handles discipline and unethical or dishonourable conduct.

We have a list of bodies accredited under the DPA scheme. Professional bodies who wish to be added to the list should email Shirley Coulter shirley.coulter@lawlibrary.ie. The Public Affairs Committee of The Bar of Ireland decides who should have access to the scheme. This access may be conditional and sometimes may only be allowed for an initial trial period.

How much will it cost?

Fees are always negotiated between the barrister and their client. They will reflect the complexity of the problem, the financial implications of the transaction and the degree of expertise and experience used by the barrister concerned. These can be agreed upfront between the client and the barrister. All practising barristers must satisfy The Bar of Ireland annually that they have an acceptable level of professional indemnity insurance cover in place.

How to instruct Counsel directly

Members or officers of approved professional bodies should plan and give thought to their instructions and give them to the barrister in writing. The quality of the advice which the barrister can give is very much dependent on the quality of the instructions.

Guidelines for instructing Counsel

A barrister must receive adequate instructions, normally setting out in concise booklet form the nature of the issue and the advice needed.

The booklet should be indexed and, as far as possible, contain all of the relevant documents.

The nature of legal advice means that barristers can often give the best advice when they can base it on a detailed consideration of documents. It is often unsatisfactory to present synopses of legal documents in place of the documents themselves. (Please note, you should never send the barrister original documents – send them copies and keep the originals.)

The case information you send to the barrister should include details of:

  1. on whose behalf you are looking for the barrister’s opinion;
  2. the factual background; and
  3. what you want to use the opinion or the advice for.

If you have researched the issue, you should include all information, case law and materials that you think are relevant.

If you need the work done by a deadline, this should be made clear in your written instructions or discussed with the barrister.

Consultations are often useful to make clear the subtleties of the issues before the barrister prepares their opinion.

Once you have paid the barrister fees for the opinion, the property of the opinion belongs to you. However, if you intend to publish the opinion or circulate it widely, you must get permission in advance from the barrister.

It might be useful for approved bodies to provide guidance to their members about the DPA scheme. The Chairman of the Public Affairs Committee of The Bar of Ireland will be pleased to help.

Please use the Law Library website “Search for a barrister” facility to find barristers who take on DPA work. This has a check box for barristers who carry out this work.

Identification of Barristers to Instruct

Not all barristers are willing to accept DPA assignments and The Bar of Ireland maintains a list of those who have indicated willingness to accept such work. Alternatively, an enquiry should be made directly to the barrister concerned.

The system of DPA is evolving and The Bar of Ireland believes that it will be used more extensively in the future to afford a wide access to the reservoir of talent and skills available from independent professional barristers practising at the Bar of Ireland.