FAQ



I need legal advice. How can I contact you?

For a quotation for advice about a legal matter concerning land, send me an email explaining the background and attaching any key documents (for example a plan of the land concerned). You don’t need to give all the details and all the documents in this initial email, just a summary (I will let you know if I need more information before a quote can be given). However if you do decide that you want to provide more documents than can be attached to a single email the best way to do this is using MEGA.

Like all barristers I am a self-employed individual and how quickly I may be able to carry out any work you require, such as legal advice or legal drafting, or whether I am able to represent you at a hearing on a particular day, depends on my other commitments at the time you ask me to carry out the work. If the matter is urgent, please state this when asking for a quotation.  

Note: I myself practise in civil law, especially land law, and this FAQ is only about civil law. Other barristers practise in other areas of law such as family law and criminal law. See here for an introduction to the kinds of matters a barrister may be able to help with.


What parts of the country do you cover? 

Although the main courts and tribunals concerned with freehold land are London-based, I travel widely throughout England (not Wales or Scotland as the law is different there) as, in order to give the best advice, it is essential to view the land concerned.


Should I seek legal advice now or should I wait?

If you have received a notification that legal proceedings have been started in a court or tribunal (or a notification from the Land Registry that someone has made an application which might affect your land) then you should seek legal advice from a qualified lawyer, such as a barrister, without delay. Often there will be quite a limited time period for you to respond and often your response will limit the legal arguments you are subsequently allowed to put forward in your defence, so do not delay seeking legal advice.

Similarly if you have received a letter threatening to start legal proceedings, you should seek immediate legal advice. 

If the situation is that legal proceedings have not been threatened or started, the best course is that, If you are in any doubt, you should seek legal advice from a barrister now. The law, in many cases, imposes time limits which mean that if you have a legal claim which is otherwise valid, you may lose your rights if you do not start court/tribunal proceedings, or send a notice to another party, or take some other action, by a certain deadline. Even if you do not lose your rights completely, sometimes delay can mean that a court is less willing to exercise its discretion in your favour, or delay may cause practical problems in, for example, tracing witnesses, or obtaining documents held by other parties which may, for example, be automatically destroyed after a certain period. It is true that in some other cases the best advice may be, on the contrary, to let sleeping dogs lie and not take any immediate action (apart from keeping a record of events) as in certain circumstances allowing a situation to continue over a period of time can strengthen your legal case. However you will not know whether this applies to your case unless and until you seek legal advice. If you seek advice earlier than (as it turns out) you needed to, nothing is lost, whereas if you delay, there is the possibility that opportunities might be lost.


What fees do you charge

The types of work which barristers do fall into three broad categories


1. Written Opinion – a barrister’s assessment of how the law applies to a given situation and the likelihood of winning any litigation. If this is the first written Opinion then invariably it will be preceded by a site visit. 

2. Drafting legal documents required in litigation such as Claim Forms, pleadings, and Applications. 
 
3. Representing you in a court or tribunal hearing.

Fixed Fees

The fee for each piece of work which you ask me to carry out will normally be a fixed fee (rather than an hourly charge). A fixed fee quote is based on my estimate of how much time the piece of work will take me but remains fixed even if the work turns out to take me longer than estimated. So the fee, for each piece of work, will normally be one of the following:-

1. A fixed fee, agreed in advance, for a site visit of a stated duration followed by a written Opinion. 

2. A fixed fee, agreed in advance, for drafting a document such an Application for an Injunction, or Particulars of Claim or Defence, or perhaps a further written Opinion if there have been developments since the last written Opinion.

3. A fixed fee, agreed in advance, for representation on a particular day in court/tribunal.

Most clients prefer the certainty of fixed fees and this is normally how most pieces of work are charged for. However there are just a few circumstances where a fixed fee for a piece of work is not possible. For example if there is litigation (court or tribunal proceedings) then, at some stage before the trial, it will be necessary for a witness statement to be drafted dealing with all the live issues in the case (shorter witness statements may have been made earlier on dealing with some specific matter such as the need for an interim injunction but, before trial, a comprehensive witness statement will be needed). Your witness statement, when signed, will be a document which you will be confirming to the court or tribunal, on oath, at the trial, to be true. You would need to be satisfied that it is true to the best of your knowledge and belief; my role, if you asked me to do the work of settling the witness statement, would be to ensure that it is clearly expressed, gives all relevant detail that you can remember, and complies with the rules for witness statements (e.g. clearly distinguishing between matters of knowledge and matters of belief). This means that if you ask me to do the work of settling a witness statement, you would write the first draft, and then drafts would pass between us as many times as is necessary. If your first draft is very clear and detailed, and you are able to clearly answer any queries I have, my contribution to the drafting process may not take me very long. On the other hand it can happen that many drafts are necessary because the answer to each query raises further queries, so, in factually complex cases, it may not be feasible to predict, at the outset, how many drafts there will be and how much time might be spent on each draft - not even approximately. Such iterative work, therefore, may not suitable for a fixed fee and may need to be charged on a time basis, but most pieces of work can be done on a fixed fee basis.  


Total fees in a case

I quote a fixed fee for each piece of work based on my estimate of how long the work might take me based on the information I then have. So, for example, if I have finished writing an Opinion and you ask me to quote for drafting an Application, I take account, when quoting for that work, of the information I have gathered about the case from the previous work of providing an Opinion. If you ask me to quote for drafting a Defence document I take account of the document from the other side which the Defence document is a reply to in estimating how long it might take me and, therefore, what fixed fee to quote. This means that I cannot, at the outset, quote a fixed fee for the whole of the work which will be needed in a case - I only quote for each piece of work at the time. But although I cannot quote, at the outset, for all of the work needed, I may be able to give you a "ballpark" figure. It is difficult to give even a "ballpark" figure before I have done the work of providing an initial Opinion (although in some types of case this might be possible) but in most cases it possible to provide a "ballpark" figure once an initial Opinion has been provided. 


No advice before Client Care Letter

Before I do any piece of work (“work” includes giving any legal advice) I will send you (by email) a Client Care Letter setting out my terms of business and stating the work which I will do and the fee for that piece of work. There is no obligation (on either side) unless and until you confirm your agreement to the terms in the Client Care Letter, and I won't do any work until you have paid the fee.

Nothing I say before the terms in the first Client Care Letter have been agreed and you have paid the fee should be taken to be legal advice. We may discuss by email what work you would like me to do/what work your case appears to require, and practical matters such are when and how you will provide further information, but such discussions should not be construed as legal advice. It does occasionally happen that when I start to do the agreed piece of work - such as drafting a document - it becomes apparent, as the matter is looked into and/or further information is provided, that that piece of work is nor appropriate and/or feasible and/or the relevant legal deadlines which apply are different from those previously assumed, so you should not take anything I say before I start to do the actual legal work as implied legal advice about time limits or legal advice about anything else. I cannot provide any legal advice - including advice about time limits  – unless and until the terms in a Client Care Letter are agreed and fee paid.

If I decide, before I send you a Client Care Letter, that the matter is not one I can help with, I may explain briefly why I take that view - for example that  the subject matter is outside my area of practise, or that the amount in dispute is modest so that you might be better off with a more junior barrister who might charge lower fees, or that the matter requires a solicitor to be engaged, or that my current workload and availability, when considered alongside  the apparent urgency of the matter, is such that I think you would be better off with another lawyer who can act more quickly. Any such explanation is given as a courtesy and is not legal advice.      


Can I have a free initial chat on the phone? 

I am afraid not. I do not use the phone (Why?).


Can I come and see you for a free initial chat?

You are welcome to come and see me by arrangement to discuss your case - a "conference" as it is called (or if the matter concerns land we can meet on site) - but I am afraid it would not be free. I, like most barristers, operate on a low-overhead business model. Barristers typically spend from nothing to very little on advertising, usually relying on a website and their reputation. Barristers are self-employed and share office costs with other self-employed barristers in chambers. And because barristers spend a lot of time either in court/tribunal or working from home, a barrister's chambers will typically have less floor space, person for person, than offices do in general. Also chambers will not be on the high street - because it does not need to use a high street presence for marketing purposes - where property costs are higher. Consistent with this low overhead business model I charge for everything I do: I do not provide any advice free.

Solicitors have a different business model which is why the fee charged for a solicitor is higher than a barrister of equivalent seniority would charge. Solicitors' firms consist of partners or directors who are the senior solicitors who own the firm and receive the profits, and a larger number of employed solicitors and other staff, and their business model typically uses the "one third rule" - i.e. out of the fee charged for a solicitor's work, one third goes on the salary of the solicitor, one third is spent on overheads, and one third is profit for the owners of the firm. The one third spent on overheads includes office costs but a large proportion is taken up with advertising and marketing in one form or another. This will typically include free  30 minute initial consultations for new clients. If we assume that for each 30 minute consultation a further 30 minutes is needed to write a file note of what is said, and write a short follow-up letter or email, and if we assume that, say, one out of five people who have a free 30 minute consultation go on to engage the solicitors to do further (chargeable) work, that means that the firm's overheads include, on average, for each client, the costs of providing 5 hours of free advice.

If I provided free initial chats, I also would have to charge my clients higher fees to cover the cost of the four out of five initial chats which do not result in chargeable work. I would rather not do that. I prefer to charge at a lower rate by minimising overheads and not providing free initial chats.  

That is the main reason why I do not provide free initial chats but there is an additional reason. Bar Council rules mean that I am not allowed to provide any advice unless a Client Care Letter has been sent and terms agreed. Although in theory this does not prevent an initial chat of a fact-finding nature, as long as no actual advice is provided, a conversation in which I cannot answer any legal question, no matter how simple, can be frustrating (for both of us). 

 

Do you provide services on a 'no win no fee' basis?

I do not enter into "no win no fee" arrangements, nor do I enter into agreements with insurance companies or other third party funders as I must be free to act in what I judge is your best interests and not be constrained by any terms which third party funders might seek to impose. If you agree to the terms of a Client Care Letter I send you, you are liable to pay my agreed fees as set out in that Client Care Letter. If you have insurance, or are a member of a club or membership organisation which might pay for legal expenses, they might reimburse you for some or all of my fees (as well as, possibly, pay some other costs) but that is a matter between you and them. 



Why do Barristers charge less than Solicitors

For the most part barristers and solicitors have different roles - barristers do not collect evidence and most solicitors do not represent clients in tribunals and courts (there are some exceptions to this but this is the general situation in practice) - but in areas where both provide services, such as legal advice, it is true that barristers generally charge less than solicitors of equivalent seniority. Part of the reason for this is that barristers have lower overheads but an additional reason is that barrister do most work on the basis of a fee fixed in advance, rather than simply at an hourly rate plus expenses. Whilst a fixed fee is not intrinsically cheaper - a fixed fee is, after all, based on an estimate of how many hours the piece of work is likely to take and includes overheads - it is probably true that doing work mainly on a fixed fee basis tends to make you more aware of ways of saving cost so that it does in fact result in more efficient ways of working. 

For example, a solicitor will be quite happy for you to deliver to them your paper documents which they should, at the conclusion of the matter, store in an offsite facility for a number of years. Handling paper documents in this way increases costs - which is reflected in the fees charged - because documents have to be scanned/photocopied, which takes time, and the costs of long term offsite storage of paper are not insubstantial. By contrast a barrister will usually ask you to provide all documents as computer files and not in paper form. The barrister may print these out for convenience when doing work but because all documents have been provided as computer files - not in paper form - and because all documents the barrister has drafted will have been emailed to the client (rather than sent in paper form) the barrister will know that, at the conclusion of the case, everything they have on paper must be a copy of a document on computer so that only the computer files need to be archived, at minimal cost, and all paper can be confidentially shredded.

Although the use of computers became widespread only towards the end of the 20th Century, barristers have, in fact, always worked in a way which avoids the need for physical copying and archiving of documents. They were able to do this because throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries barristers only carried out work when engaged via solicitors, and the solicitors carried out the necessary copying of documents to be sent to the barrister and subsequent archiving. Before the 19th Century barristers were often engaged direct without a solicitor but paper was much more expensive then and consequently there were few written documents in the average case. So the way most barristers now work when engaged directly without a solicitor - asking for copies of documents as computer files only, not on paper - is fully in line with their traditional role concentrating on the specifically legal work and choosing a way of working which avoids unnecessary overheads. 


Do I need to engage Solicitors as well as a Barrister?

As long as you can scan in paper documents as PDFs and can provide those and any other relevant files from your phone or computer - e.g. any relevant photos in jpg form - you can go direct to a barrister for advice. You do not generally need, when seeking initial legal advice, to engage solicitors as well. 

If legal proceedings (court or tribunal proceedings) are to be commenced then you might need solicitors as well as a barrister. For most cases you do not need a solicitor but It depends on a number of factors including the area of law involved and, in particular, the number of potentially relevant documents. 

For example, in legal proceedings about a disputed private right of way it would be feasible for you to identify and collect together the potentially relevant documents I might need when drafting pleadings for the proceedings as these are likely to be relatively few - perhaps a couple of dozen contemporary photos, a couple of dozen historical photos, less than 10 conveyances, and perhaps a score of historical letters or emails - and if you were to be in any doubt as to whether some individual document was relevant you could include it in the documents you provide to me anyway to be on the safe side.

However if the dispute, rather than being about a right of way, is a commercial dispute, in that case it can be difficult for someone who does not have legal training to reliably identify those documents which are, and those documents which are not, relevant and, as there may be tens of thousands of potentially relevant documents, you cannot simply adopt the course of including in the documents to be provided to the barrister any document where there is any doubt in your mind about relevance because that would be likely to result in providing large numbers of irrelevant documents which it would not be cost-effective to pay a barrister to review. So in cases like this a firm of solicitors needs to be engaged. Solicitors firms employ not only qualified solicitors of different levels of seniority but also trainee solicitors and paralegals whose fee rates are much lower so that there can be an efficient "division of labour". Typically the task of identifying the relevant documents will be considered first by a senior solicitor who would consider the issues in the case, sample the available documents, and devise an initial computerised searching strategy such as, at its most basic, keyword searching. Those documents identified by the search - say 5,000 documents - would then be individually reviewed by perhaps two paralegals under the supervision of the senior solicitor, to produce a subset of relevant documents to be sent to the barrister. (Note: this is a simplified description of the internal process solicitors would use - in practice there would be some degree of iteration e.g. the senior solicitor would look at at least a sample of documents identified by the paralegals, and consider whether further keyword searches - or other more sophisticated searches - should be made and further documents reviewed.) 

So, in summary, when seeking initial advice you rarely need a solicitor and you can go direct to a barrister. For legal proceedings, depending on the type of case you might then need a solicitor but the barrister you go to will be able to advise you whether solicitors are required at that stage or not.

     

Note that if you want a legal transaction to be carried out (e.g. buying/selling land or making a Will) then you need to engage solicitors.


Is there anything else I need to know?

Like all barristers I am regulated by the Bar Standards Board. In addition to the information above about e.g. what kind of work I do, how I typically charge, and how to obtain a quotation, the regulations require me to give you the following additional links and information.

BSB register of barristers

Complaints Procedure 



This page was lasted updated in January 2020          Disclaimer