July 27th, 2015
There are over 15,000 barristers practising law in England and Wales.
Barristers provide specialist advice and representation in legal disputes, including representing their clients in court cases.
Often, if you have instructed a solicitor or another type of lawyer, they will find and appoint a suitable barrister for you.
However, nowadays you can also approach many barristers directly to get help without needing to go through another lawyer first. This is known a ‘Public Access’, or ‘Direct Access’.
As well as advising and representing you in court cases, Public Access barristers can help you with things like drafting legal documents, or giving specialist advice on a particular area of law.
But where can you find a suitable barrister? And how do you know if the barrister you are thinking of instructing, is an expert in the area of law that you need help with?
Well, the Bar Council – the professional body which represents barristers – has recently launched a new online Direct Access portal. It is an easy way to find and contact specialist Direct Access Barristers, Mediators and Arbitrators.
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) regulates all barristers. It sets the rules for what a barrister learns and how they must do things. All barristers must be registered in order to give legal advice. You can check whether a barrister is registered using the BSB’s online Barristers’ Register. It can display details of all barristers who are authorised to practise in England and Wales.
Finally, if you are not sure if the person who you are dealing with is really a barrister, please check out this Legal Choices article for advice.
June 8th, 2015
How many carers do you know?
There are 6.5 million carers in the UK, so chances are you know someone who is one, or you may be one yourself.
8 – 14 June is National Carer’s Week, and an opportunity to highlight the daily challenges carers can face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities.
Day in, day out carers help people who need support the most to live their lives. Depending on the situation this can be helping people for a short period of time, if for example a friend is ill, right through to supporting a family member who needs 24 hour care.
As well as providing physical support some carers also become someone that speaks out on behalf of the person they are caring for, to make sure their rights are upheld.
This can include legal problems, and times when a legal solution is needed to help protect someone that is being cared for. Examples include powers of attorney, wills, family trusts, protection orders, discrimination issues, and benefit challenges.
Like any legal situation though, it can be hard to know who to talk to, and where to start.
To mark National Carer’s Week, Legal Choices has updated our help page for carers, which has ideas and facts about some of the ways to help carers get advice and support with legal problems.
For information about National Carer’s Week you can visit the website – www.carersweek.org.
March 3rd, 2015
What to do if you’re not sure if the person you’re dealing with is a barrister
As the regulator of barristers in England and Wales, it is our job to handle complaints against members of the Bar and take disciplinary action if appropriate. However, sometimes we learn of people who are deliberately pretending to be barristers when they are not – an act which is a serious criminal offence.
In March last year Amir Saleem was sentenced to four years and four months for a string of deception-related offences, including pretending to be a barrister. Among the seven criminal charges to which Mr Saleem pleaded guilty was carrying out a “reserved legal activity” at an earlier hearing. A reserved legal activity is something that only a lawyer, who is authorised to do so, can do on behalf of clients.
During his trial it was revealed that Mr Saleem had met a lady online via a dating website, and told her that he was a barrister who could help with a legal issue she had and represent her in court. It was only after he was talking to another barrister at court – claiming he was also a brain surgeon – when concerns about his behaviour were raised and he was investigated.
It is against the law for someone to (deliberately or wilfully) pretend to be a barrister or to use any name, title, or description that makes it seem as though they are a barrister when they are not.
If you are not sure if the person you are dealing with is actually a practising barrister, you can find out by searching The Barristers’ Register, which is available on the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) website. This provides a list of barristers who are permitted to carry out legal services when referring to themselves as barristers. If your search does not produce any matching results, you should contact the Bar Council (via firstname.lastname@example.org), and they will conduct further checks for you.
If you learn that the person you are dealing with is pretending to be a barrister, you should contact the police and let us know. In some cases the BSB will refer matters to the police about people pretending to be a barrister.
We want to ensure people make the right decisions and do not fall victim to scams. Frequently, these come in the form of fraudulent emails – sometimes dishonestly using the names of real barristers or barristers’ chambers and citing phoney qualifications. They are designed to trick people into giving money to criminals, posing as barristers.
Such emails often ask the recipient for personal details like:
• your bank account details;
• your date of birth; and
• log-in details to bank accounts or other online accounts
Or they might ask you to send money in advance. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you have been targeted by a scam email, do not give out any money or personal details up front. You should contact the police if you believe you have fallen victim to a scam. If you would like further advice or information, please visit Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre. If you are based outside of the UK, please contact your local law enforcement agency.