How to instruct a barrister


The Bar is a referral profession; the majority of barristers are self-employed and are usually instructed by a professional client on behalf of a lay client. However, members of the public, professionals and companies can also instruct a barrister without the use of a professional client.

There are a number of ways to instruct a barrister.

Professional Client

The following people may instruct barristers either on behalf of clients or on their own account.

  • any person authorised by another approved regulator (not the Bar Standards Board) or licensing authority;

  • an employed barrister or registered European lawyer;

  • any practising barrister or registered European lawyer acting on his own behalf;

  • a foreign lawyer;

  • a Scottish or Northern Irish Solicitor; or

  • the representative of any body (such as a Legal Advice Centre or Pro Bono or Free Representation Unit) which arranges for the supply of legal services to the public without a fee, and which has been and remains designated by the Bar Standards Board (subject to such conditions as may be imposed by the Bar Council or Bar Standards Board in relation to insurance or any other matter whatsoever) as suitable for the instruction of barristers, and which instructs a barrister to supply legal services without a fee.


Public Access scheme

Members of the public, and commercial and non-commercial organisations are able to instruct barristers directly. They can do this when it is not necessary to be supported by a Professional Client. This allows clients to take charge of their litigation and save on the cost of additional legal support.

You can find a barrister who is trained to accept direct instructions on the Direct Access Portal.

Licensed Access scheme

The Bar Standards Board can grant a license to any organisation or individual suitable to instruct barristers because they have expertise in a particular area of the law . This way, they can instruct any member of the Bar for advice and in some circumstances representation. A license holder can instruct on their own behalf or on behalf of others.

For more information please see the Licensed Access pages.

For a full list of license holders please contact Authorisations at the Bar Standards Board.

Arbitration and mediation

Many barristers act as mediators or arbitrators. Mediation and Arbitration are alternative ways in which a dispute can be resolved, without going to court.

Arbitration outcomes are binding whilst mediations outcomes are not. If you wish to appoint a barrister as a mediator please see the Bar Council list of Barrister Mediators. These barristers  have undertaken relevant training in this area and are independent from either party to the dispute. Please contact the Mediation & Arbitration team for further assistance.

Barristers can also represent you in a mediation. If you wish to have a barrister represent you in a mediation without the assistance of a professional client please see the Direct Access Portal.