(C) 2019

Richard Colbey

020 7797 8300

Lamb Chambers, London

My family practice is mainly about financial disputes between separating spouses, but also includes Inheritance Act claims, disputes over homes and access to children.

Below is a list of questions and their answers, that you might find helpful if you are considering asking me to work on your case.

How do we instruct you?

It is best that you send me an email rc@lambchambers.co.uk or call me on 020 7797 8300. I aim to return calls and answer emails very promptly and always the same day, though this may not be possible if I am in court. Your email should contain your full name. Often I will suggest a preliminary conference is the best way for me to advise. Sometimes written advice will be more appropriate in which case I will ask to see copies of the relevant papers. If you want me to represent you at court it will also be essential for me to see you and/or have the papers in advance. I will always give you a price for the work I am doing before you are committed to pay.

What are the advantages of instructing a barrister directly?

The main advantage is the saving in costs. While barristers still charge a lot of money by most standards, our fees are generally less than solicitors as we have lower overheads. In divorce financial cases where I have appeared on direct access, my total fees have been about one-third of what the other party, paying a solicitor and a barrister has incurred.

What are the disadvantages of instructing a barrister directly?

Barristers do not “conduct litigation”. This means for instance we do not take documents to court, we do not handle clients’ money we do not photocopy large bundles of documents. These are all things that a solicitor will do and, of course, charge for. If a person is confident in their own ability to handle the more routine parts of litigation then they will make a substantial saving, while having the benefit of an experienced lawyer to help them with the more difficult parts: drafting court documents, negotiation and of course appearing in court.

Are there any family cases which are not suitable for direct access?

Sometimes where there is extreme hostility between the parties it is desirable to have solicitors on both sides to take the heat out of the situation. I will not accept direct access instructions where the main motive of the client is to belittle their former partner rather than legitimately achieve a favourable financial outcome.

Fees and Costs

My fees will be charged at an hourly rate and will be payable whatever the outcome of the case. The hourly rate depends to some extent on the nature of the case and the amount of assets involved. It will always be less (usually by around 30%) than a similarly experienced solicitor would charge. Quoted rates do not include VAT, but that should be stated when the fees are being particularised. I usually expect to be paid at the time I do any work. Part of the reason for my relatively low charges is that by insisting on payment this way I do not have to expend time chasing outstanding fees.

Do you do “no win, no fee” divorce cases?

No. Such agreements are illegal in divorce and most other family cases, and are rarely suitable for direct access anyway.

What if I cannot afford your fees?

It may be that you are eligible for legal aid, but you would have to seek the advice of a solicitor about that. In some situations I may be willing to wait the outcome of a case to be paid the bulk of my fees, but I would have to be satisfied that there was a very good reason for that.

How can I pay your fees?

I do accept credit cards, but I would be reluctant to encourage anyone to get substantially in debt to pay me. Otherwise all the usual methods such as debit card, bank transfer, cheque (so long as there is time for it to clear) and, as an absolute last resort, cash.

My Practice

Why should we instruct you?

I have been in practice for more than 30 years. I have done a very wide range of cases both on the instructions of solicitors and direct access, up to and including the Court of Appeal (where I was the first barrister to win a direct access case). I practice mainly from Lamb Chambers, a highly regarded set in central London, and also from Guildhall Chambers in Portsmouth. . I am a long standing member of the Family Law Bar Association. Beyond those factual matters, I am reluctant to include boasts about my abilities. Prospective clients can, perhaps should, do their own research on any lawyer they are considering instructing from law reports and other sources.

What types of family work do you do?

Most of my family work is on financial disputes- known until recently as ancillary relief. I also do related work involving ownership of property and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. I will take disputes over children and allegations of domestic violence on direct access, so long as I am satisfied that the parties’ antagonism to each other is to such that the involvement of solicitors is essential.

Can you take last minute instructions?

I much prefer to have proper time to prepare for cases and meetings. However if it is urgent and I am free I will try to see you or go to court as soon as I am asked.

How about the break up of civil partnerships?

The only reason I have not listed civil partnership break ups above is because I have not yet been instructed in one. Nor have most of the other family law barristers I know and there have been virtually no reported cases on them. The general feeling is that they will be treated in the same way as divorce cases by the family courts. I am, of course, happy to act in such matters if asked to.

Are you willing to act on a collaborative law basis?

Collaborative law is where each party instructs a lawyer to settle the matter without it going to court. The lawyers and parties agree that if there is no settlement those lawyers will not continue to act. There is thus not a financial advantage to the lawyers in the matter continuing to court. I think this is an excellent idea and would be happy to accept instructions on this basis.

Can you provide early neutral evaluation?

Again this is something of a “new fangled” but very good idea. The parties jointly instruct a lawyer to give them an idea of the likely outcome of contested proceedings and to help them reach a settlement. It, of course, only works if the parties are reasonably co-operative with each other but so long as that is the case I would be pleased to do this. If a settlement is not reached I would not be able to give further advice or representation to either party.


How do we instruct you?

It is best that you send me an email rc@lambchambers.co.uk or call me on 020 7797 8300. I aim to return calls and answer emails very promptly and always the same day, though this may not be possible if I am in court.