The online survey, launched in April and part of a wider research project in association with Professor Graham Cookson from the University of Surrey, was completed by 716 respondents (90% of whom were barristers). Sixty-one per cent reported an increase in the number of lay clients experiencing difficulties accessing legal advice and representation and 60% reported an increase in the number of lay clients requesting free advice and representation.

The survey also addressed the impact on a barrister’s practice. A decrease in case work was reported by 72% of family practitioners; 60% of those involved in civil legal aid; and by 45% in civil litigation. Declining fee income was reported by 69% in family legal aid work; 62% in civil legal aid work; and 53% involved in civil litigation.

Funding arrangements were highlighted, with 27% of barrister respondents reporting a general increase in interest in fixed fees, deferred payment, pro bono assessment of risk, litigation funding and damages-based agreements. Issues with the transition to post-Jackson conditional fee agreements were reported by 42% of civil litigators.

While the majority had no immediate plans to leave the Bar, a significant minority were considering a move to judicial or other positions before 2015. Many indicated that the effects of LASPO had caused them to think about the viability of their career. Bar Chairman Nicholas Lavender QC called for a “comprehensive post-implementation review”, pledging that the Bar Council would work with policy makers to mitigate the harmful effects. “The results will help to guide the formulation of policy and provide some strong messages to government, as we approach the general election,” he said.

Meanwhile, an analysis of recently published Legal Aid Agency (LAA) data showed a 61% drop in payments to barristers by the LAA for family law proceedings, which fell from £38m in 2012/13 to £15m in 2013/14. (LSM), which analysed the figures, also calculated that the Ministry of Justice is on course to reduce its spend on solicitors’ fees by over £100m compared to 2012/13.

LSM founder Marc Lopatin said: “How impacted barristers respond will go some way to defining how family law services will evolve. To survive, barristers may have little choice but to start competing with solicitors for divorcing clients. If they do, this will break the historic referral bond between the two professions and create the colourful spectacle of fixed-fee barristers being hired by clients with the express purpose of keeping them both out of court.”

A freedom of information request submitted by LSM revealed that the withdrawal of legal aid for most family disputes resulted in mediation numbers plummeting by almost 40% in 2013/14 – the first full year of government cuts. The number of parents heading to court without a lawyer had increased by over 19,000.