Solicitor's written instructions to counsel to appear at a hearing on behalf of a party.

A brief summarises the facts of a legal case. It is drawn up to instruct counsel prior to conducting the case in court, it is a synopsis of the facts. The document is  prepared by a solicitor for the barrister and sets out, in summary form, what the case is about, the documents being provided to the barrister, and what the barrister is being asked to do and by when. Original documents should not be sent. If counsel needs to be instructed, the client must agree and the solicitors should get clear instructions from their client or request the money for the barrister's bills in advance. Once a barrister has been instructed, it is the responsibility of the solicitor’s firm to pay the barrister’s bill.

Since 2004 the 'direct access scheme' made it possible for members of the public to instruct barristers directly. This has not been used very widely, probably due to the complexity of the paperwork or the inexperience of members of the public in their dealing with barristers.

The brief will contain the determining facts of the case and must include the names of the parties and whether they are the claimant or the defendant. It must also state the nature of the dispute.

  The different sections of the brief are set out below:

(1) The heading - containing the basic details of the case, where the case was heard if it has gone to court and the names of the parties.

(2) The list of attached documents - these will be copies of the original papers and will be numbered to correspond with the list provided. the papers will include particulars of claim, defence and counterclaims, replies to the defence and counterclaim, any court orders made, and copies of witness statements and reports. There may be details of any previous settlement discussions and instructions about counsel’s authority to settle the matter. These should be presented in chronological order.

(3) Summary of what the case is about - this enables the barrister to understand the case and get to grips with the dispute and the outcome that his client is hoping for.

(4) Any relevant deadlines such as limitation dates, hearing dates or time limits for serving evidence.

(5)What the barrister is required to do - here the solicitor needs to set out what it is the barrister is being asked to do. For example, what are the prospects of success and how much is likely to be recovered? By asking Counsel to advise 'generally' the solicitor will have covered anything that might be missed from a list of questions.

The paperwork is usually sent to the barrister’s clerk, who will advise on availability of a barrister and the cost involved.

How to instruct a barrister - The Bar Council




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