Clients often ask at what stage barristers become involved in their matter. One way to think about it is that solicitors are like general practitioners and barristers (also called Counsel) are like specialists who specialise in particular areas of law/s as well as appearing at Court.
Sometimes solicitors will brief a barrister to provide a written opinion on your prospects of success in commencing proceedings. This can be a worthwhile process especially when weighing up the legal costs involved and considering any costs orders you may be liable for if proceedings are unsuccessful.
Some Counsel are involved in the drafting of proceedings especially if the matter is complex or unusual. Others are briefed during the proceedings when the solicitor believes it is an appropriate time to do so.
Similarly to solicitors, Counsel are required to provide disclosure about their costs. However, Counsel’s Costs Agreement and disclosure documents are issued to the solicitor or firm who becomes liable to pay the Counsel’s fees. Solicitors have a duty to provide the Counsel’s costs disclosure including updates and invoices to their client. Counsel charge on an hourly rate and a daily rate especially for Court attendances. Some Counsel will charge a cancellation fee if a hearing settles or is adjourned within a certain amount of time of a fixed Court listing.
Junior Counsel may advise when they believe Senior Counsel should be briefed and provide recommendations for Senior Counsel they have worked with in the past. Senior Counsel generally become involved if the proceedings are particularly complex (on questions of law or fact) or an appeal.
Solicitors will consider which Counsel to brief based on the client’s financial circumstances, the type of matter it is and which Counsel they believe is most suitable. One Counsel may be perfectly suited to one type of case but not another. Some solicitors only brief one Counsel and build up a well-established working relationship with them.
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