Consumers in New South Wales have the option of seeking to directly brief barristers when seeking legal representation, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the NSW Bar Association have agreed.
"Such direct access may make a barrister's service more affordable for more consumers", ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel said today. "Contrary to a misapprehension, the NSW Barristers Rules do not require that clients brief barristers through a solicitor.
"Under the NSW rules, barristers can accept 'direct access briefs' from clients without the need for the clients to engage a solicitor, if the barrister so chooses.
"The NSW Bar Association agrees that it could not take any disciplinary action against a barrister accepting a direct access brief simply for choosing to do so.
"The ACCC notes, however, that it is not a requirement of the rules that barristers must accept such briefs. Many barristers will make the individual choice to be briefed through a solicitor.
"The availability of choice for all parties is an important factor. The option to directly brief a barrister and the ability of the barrister to accept the brief provides choice to all parties. It is likely to result in more efficiency, competition and consumer benefits.
"This clarification of the rules enhances competition in the market for barristers' services.
"It also provides the opportunity for reduced costs for consumers as it will not be necessary to employ two professionals for specialist advice or advocacy services. In some cases, briefing through a solicitor may cause duplication of work and increased costs".
NSW Bar Association President, Mr Bret Walker SC, said it was important that barristers in NSW were under no misapprehension as to the requirements of the NSW Barristers' Rules.
"There is nothing in the NSW Barristers' Rules preventing them from accepting direct access briefs. It is a matter for their and prospective clients' choice".
The ACCC will continue to examine the rules of professional associations from a competition perspective as part of its role in achieving compliance with the Trade Practices Act 1974 and the State Competition Codes.
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