Barristers ‘overcharge for immigration advice’
Times Photographer Richard Pohle
Barristers have been overcharging vulnerable migrants seeking UK immigration advice, the profession’s regulator has said.
In a 40-page guide for lawyers acting for high-risk immigration clients, the Bar Standards Board said that fee rates were a “significant barrier” to gaining legal advice.
It said that recent cuts to the legal aid budget had exacerbating problems for immigrants but that “our review found that there is a lack of clarity around costs and some evidence of overcharging”.
The board, which regulates barristers in England and Wales, said immigration specialists were mostly clustered around towns and cities despite migrants having moved to more remote areas.
“Some of the most vulnerable people who find themselves in need of urgent immigration services, but who were not located in one of these [urban] centres, might struggle or even find it impossible to locate good quality advice,” it said.
Despite growing demand for immigration law advice, even those barristers that are accredited to take instructions directly from members of the public were often reluctant to promote their services, it added.
Many barristers “felt that the work is less profitable — because clients need more hand-holding by both the barrister and clerk — and carries more risk. Those engaging primarily in public access work find that they get enough work through word of mouth recommendations and do not need to advertise their services”, the report said.
As a result, “vulnerable consumers trying to navigate their way through the legal system for the first time are unlikely to find services by good quality barristers publicly advertised”.