Broker Direct has told its 12-strong panel of solicitors that they will be struck off the list if they attempt to impede a new Bar Council scheme that gives insurers direct access to barristers.

Solicitors are worried they could be cut out of the loop by BarDirect, a licensing scheme that allows clients including insurers to approach barristers directly without having to first instruct solicitors.

It applies to advice work and legal representation in court.

Broker Direct director, Neil Harris said he was concerned that some solicitors' firms have brought pressure to bear on individual barristers' chambers to dissuade them from marketing their services through BarDirect.

He went on to warn: "If any solicitor firm on our panel were implicated in trying to restrict barristers operating in the BarDirect scheme, then they will be effectively struck-off."

But he stressed that none of the solicitor firms on Broker Direct's panel had actually issued any such threat nor did he expect them to.

Harris thought BarDirect would lead to

significant cost savings for insurers by eliminating duplication in the use of barristers and solicitors.

"Claims expenditure and getting the best legal advice as cheaply and quickly as possible are key to insurers," he said.

Marion Simmons QC, co-chairman of BarDirect, said she had not received any representations from BarDirect barristers complaining about adverse anti-competitive behaviour.

She said BarDirect did not extend the work of barristers and solicitors would retain responsibility for conducting litigation case work.