Some of the most common questions people have about barristers are to do with fees and costs. How a barrister will be paid and what they will charge you for can sometimes be confusing. The most important thing to know is that you are allowed to ask questions. If there is anything you do not understand about how you are going to be charged, talk to your solicitor or barrister about it.
We have recently introduced new rules which require all barristers’ practices to publish some information about fees and charges either on their website or on paper. You should be able to see it before your solicitor instructs a barrister for you, or you instruct a Public Access barrister (a barrister who has had extra training, and who can be hired directly by members of the public).
The rules are designed to help you understand the price and service you will receive from your barrister. There is more information about these rules below.
How much to expect to pay
There is no standard amount that a barrister will charge. Barristers are allowed to set their own prices for their services. It is up to you to decide whether you think the price is reasonable, and whether you want to hire that particular barrister. If you are using the Public Access scheme, you may want to consider more than one barrister to see what different prices are available and to get quotes.
When you instruct a barrister, they should make it clear at the outset how you will be charged and what it will cost. If it is not clear, you should ask your barrister further questions to make sure you know what the charges will be.
How barristers charge
Different barristers may charge for their work in different ways. For example, they may charge by the hour, or offer you a fixed fee for a particular piece of work, or how much you pay may depend on whether you win your case or not.
What barristers must publish about their fees
Our rules say that barristers practices must publish information about the fees they charge, either online or, if they do not have a website, in hard copy format.
All barristers’ practices are required to say how they commonly charge for the legal services they provide. This means that they must make it clear whether they charge for their services via:
- Fixed fee arrangements. This is when a barrister considers how much work they will have to do for you in total and how much this will cost. The barrister then gives you an overall amount that you will need to pay for the work they are doing;
- Hourly rate arrangements. This is when a barrister will have a set rate they charge for each hour of work they do for you. They will then keep track of how many hours of work they have done for you, and this will be the final cost. They may be able to give an estimate of the number of hours it will take;
- Conditional fee arrangement. This is when how much you need to pay will depend on whether you win your case. For example, the agreement may be that if you do not win, you do not have to pay the barrister, or you may have to pay a smaller fixed amount and only need to pay the rest if you win; or
- Arrangements using a different type of pricing model.
Barristers also have to publish their actual hourly rates or examples of fees if they are doing certain types of Public Access work.
This means either you or your solicitor should always get a clear idea about likely costs from the barrister for dealing with your specific case. Our rules state that barristers’ practices must publish statements making it clear that anyone – including a solicitor or a member of the public – may contact them for a quotation and how to do this.
Extra information some Public Access barristers must publish
Barristers offering Public Access must publish information about their fees, if they are providing any of the following services:
- Employment Tribunal cases (advice and representation for employers and employees);
- financial disputes arising out of divorce;
- immigration appeals (First-tier Tribunal);
- Inheritance Act advice;
- licensing applications in relation to business premises;
- personal injury claims;
- summary only motoring offences (advice and representation for defendants); and
- winding-up petitions.
As well as setting out how they charge for the legal services they provide, these Public Access barristers must also publish:
- an indication of their actual fees and the circumstances in which they may vary;
- a statement making it clear whether their fees include VAT;
- likely extra costs, what they cover and either the cost or an estimation of the typical range of costs; and
- a statement giving a description of the relevant Public Access services which they provide, the key stages involved in their work and an indicative timescale for those key stages.
Barristers’ chambers may publish the range of fees for the individual barristers within the practice or an average fee for all their barristers.
These rules are new and barristers have until January 2020 to implement these publication requirements. From this date, we will start enforcing the new rules to make sure that everyone is complying.
Barristers or their clerks should always discuss the way you will be charged with you. If this is not clear you should ask for more information. The Legal Ombudsman (LEO) has written a guide on what you should ask your lawyer about costs. The guide can be found on LEO's website.
Barristers and their clients’ money
"Client money" is money held by a lawyer on behalf of a client. Solicitors' firms have client accounts where clients can pay in money in a way similar to a bank account, and that money is held for them by the firm. Solicitors' firms have protections in place to ensure that this money is not misused. They also have a compensation fund that will pay for any money a client loses.
Barristers do not have the same protections in place and are not allowed to hold money in this way.
Paying a barrister and what to see itemised on their bills
How barristers invoice you will depend on the way you are being charged and what has been agreed with them. If you have a solicitor, they will usually take care of the barristers’ fees on your behalf. If not, the barrister or chambers will invoice you directly.
Usually, a barrister needs to be paid 30 days after they send out their invoice. But this may not always be the case. It is best to discuss when you will need to pay with your barrister or solicitor when you first instruct them to do work for you.
Some common items you may see on a bill from your barrister include:
- attendance at court;
- attendance at meetings or conferences;
- drafting documents;
- correspondence; and
Barristers are required to keep records of the fees they charge and what they were for. You have the right to see these records. If you are unsure about what a charge on your bill is for, your barrister should be able to provide you with information on what you have been charged for and why.
If you cannot afford a barrister
If you need a barrister but cannot afford one, there are certain types of cases where you may be able to get legal aid. Legal aid means that the government will help you to meet the costs of legal advice and/or representation in a court or tribunal.
An organisation called “Advocate” can also provide you with legal help if you cannot afford to pay. However, you will need to be referred to them by an advice agency such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, a Law Centre, your local MP or a Legal Advice Clinic, so it would be best to speak to one of these organisations first. You can find more information about Advocate on their website.
To be able to get legal aid, you will usually need to be able to show that:
- your case is eligible for legal aid;
- the problem is serious; and
- you cannot afford to pay for legal costs.
The kind of situations you could get legal aid for include where:
- you or your family are at risk of abuse or serious harm;
- you are at risk of losing your home;
- you have been accused of a crime, face prison or detention; and
- you are being discriminated against.
You will usually need to show that you cannot afford to pay for this help. You may have to pay some money towards the legal costs of your case or pay costs back later.
You can find more information on legal aid and how to apply on the gov.uk website.
If you decide to represent yourself
Someone who decides to represent themselves in court is known as a “Litigant in Person” and there is a central digital portal, Advicenow, which provides guidance and help to Litigants in Person (LiPS) nationwide. Their website brings together the best information from across the web, self-help guides and tools, and guidance on how to access the advice and support that is available.