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» What is Early Neutral Evaluation?
» What is direct public access?
» Should you go direct?
» What is involved?
» What are the costs?

What is Early Neutral Evaluation?

Early Neutral Evaluation, or ‘private FDR’ is a form of alternative dispute resolution. If you are involved in a financial or property dispute your solicitor could arrange for both parties to attend my Chambers for discussions and negotiations.  In the course of those discussions I will give you the benefit of my opinion as a neutral person with experience of what a judge might do at a court hearing.  My opinion would be for your benefit and would not be binding in any way but it may help you and your opponent to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and to consider the benefits of settlement. If an agreement is reached then in most cases a binding written contract is made and the dispute is resolved there and then. If no agreement is reached what was said during the negotiations remains private and cannot be used in any later court proceedings.
Early Neutral Evaluation is especially suited to financial claims arising from divorce or separation, particularly those involving property.  It has many advantages, in particular:-

  • It is a lot cheaper and less stressful than going to court.
  • You can avoid the delays inherent in the court process.
  • It is typically more effective than mediation.
  • You have the reassurance of knowing what someone else thinks about the case.

If you are already involved in a dispute about finances or property ask your solicitor to contact me to find out more.

What is Direct Public Access?

Since January 2011 barristers have been able to accept instructions directly from the public, subject to meeting certain additional training requirements. This is known as ‘direct public access’ (often abbreviated to ‘public access’ or ‘direct access’).  It means you can instruct a barrister without going to a solicitor first.

The majority of barristers, about 67% now offer direct access. The profession is small however so 67% translates to only about 6,500 direct access barristers. In contrast there are around 120,000 solicitors, so the reality is that for solicitors the only real competition comes from other solicitors.  There are also some very important differences between barristers and solicitors which are explained in the next section.

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Should you go direct?

Should you instruct a barrister directly or should you go to a solicitor first?

The answer depends on you and the nature of your case. The fact that you can go direct to a barrister does not always mean you should. It is important to appreciate that the traditional differences between barristers and solicitors remain. Barristers work as individuals from shared premises (‘Chambers’) and if you need to contact your barrister at short notice they may not always be available. A firm of solicitors may have several people available to help. A further important factor is that most barristers do not conduct litigation. This means that if your case goes to court you will need to put your own address on the court papers and do some of the work yourself. Your barrister will be able to help with the paperwork and can advise you and represent you but you must have enough administrative ability to handle some aspects of your case.
If you have any doubt you should approach a public access barrister and ask them what they think. Many will offer a free initial consultation for the purpose of assessing if a case is suitable for direct access. They will say if they think you really ought to see a solicitor and they may even recommend a solicitor for you.
If you simply cannot afford a solicitor the reality is that you will have no choice but to manage your own case. In that situation direct access means you can now approach a barrister for advice or representation when needed.

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What is involved?

Barristers can provide advice, represent you at court, help you to write letters and help you with court paperwork. They can also provide a certain amount of assistance with the litigation process and help you with the process of taking witness statements or instructing an expert.
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What are the costs?

The costs vary depending upon the complexity of the case and the amount in issue. Barristers charge different rates according to their experience. Typically barristers work for fixed fees which means you, the client, retain greater control of the costs.  Many solicitors are also now starting to offer their services on a fixed fee basis.
If you need a fee quotation you should contact my clerk using the contact page of this web site.

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For further information please contact me via the details on my contact page