Barristers are to be allowed for the first time to offer their services directly to the public without the need to go through a solicitor.

The reform abolishes a rule dating back to the mid-19th century and is controversial; it means the bar is no longer to be a referral-only profession, the chief remaining distinction between barristers and solicitors. It comes into force next month, having been approved this week by David Lammy, minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

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