The Bar Council and Family Law Bar Association (FLBA) have backed family law barristers for meeting their clients' needs and expectations after research from the Bar Standards Board (BSB) showed clients were positive about the service their barrister provided. Similar levels of client satisfaction with their lawyers were also reported today by new findings from the Legal Services Consumer Panel. 

The BSB study of 1,200 of clients who had been involved in a family law matter between January 2015 and 2017, showed that of those using a barrister for family legal proceedings, 79 per cent were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the overall quality of the service they received. 

Although the report showed there is aperceptionthat barristers charge higher fees than solicitors and other legal services providers, overall there was a positive view of the family Bar from the client community. 

The report also showed: 

  • Understanding by clients of the role of barristers in the family law process was good

  • 69 per cent of clients were aware that there is now direct access for individuals to some barristers

  • 12 per cent of individuals made direct contact with a barrister without using a solicitor

  • 33 per cent use barristers for all family law legal advice, not just court representation. 

Philip Marshall QC, Chairman of the Family Law Bar Association, said: "The BSB's findings show that the family Bar's clients are happy with the service they are getting. It's a positive report and one that is a boost for family law practitioners. Perhaps most importantly, the report reveals that clients are looking ahead and considering using barristers in future. A majority (59%) of all those who took part in the survey, even those who hadn't used a barrister for a family legal issue, said they would consider using a barrister for family-related legal advice in the future and 64% would consider using a barrister for other legal advice. 

"It is no surprise that such a high number of clients go through a solicitor first. The Bar remains predominantly a referral profession, but it is encouraging to see more clients being aware of direct access and many going directly to the Bar. 

"Inevitably, some parts of the legal services sector will home in on the few negatives from the report, particularly the perception of how much barristers charge. The Bar Council and FLBA will do more to highlight to the public that this perception is not accurate. To view this report as negative for the family Bar would be a complete misinterpretation of the findings. With the many challenges family practitioners face today, this report gives a positive insight into how clients view family barristers despite those challenges." 

The BSB findings were echoed today in the Legal Services Consumer Panel's latest annual Tracker Survey results, which showed high levels of satisfaction amongst users of legal services. 83% are satisfied with the outcome of their legal matter and 80% of consumers were satisfied with the service. Trust in lawyers had also increased. 

New statistics from the Direct Access Portal, the official Bar Council online directory of direct access barristers, showed the public were turning to the direct access Bar on family matters. In Q2 of 2017, there were 3,600 searches for family law barristers by the public.