The Bar Standards Board (BSB), the regulatory body for barristers in England and Wales, has agreed that the new Standard Contractual Terms will now take effect on 31 January 2013.
The new terms were previously scheduled to take effect on 31 October 2012 but, following feedback from a range of stakeholders, the deadline was extended to enable instructing solicitors, barristers’ chambers, their practice managers and software providers to adjust to the changes being proposed. All chambers will be expected to comply with the new provisions from 31 January 2013.
The new Standard Contractual Terms aim to modernise the process of referral of work to barristers. Increasingly, barristers are seeking to agree contractual terms with solicitors instead of the traditional default system of non-contractual arrangements (which in certain cases had the potential to create difficulties enforcing and recovering fees).
The Legal Services Board (LSB) approved a Bar Standards Board amendment to the Code of Conduct, under which the cab rank rule will apply to both the new Standard Contractual Terms and to barristers’ own contractual terms, as published on their chambers website. Previously, clients had been denied the benefits of the cab rank rule when instructions were made on a contractual basis and this represents an important modernisation of that rule. In all other respects, barristers and solicitors are free to negotiate such terms as they see fit.
The existing exclusions to the cab rank rule, such as conflict of interest or not being available, will continue to apply.
Notes for editors
1. The cab rank rule obliges a barrister to accept any instruction from a solicitor unless one or more of the specific exemptions applies. Its broad effect is that it is professional misconduct for a barrister to refuse to represent a lay client because the barrister, for example, does not want to appear to be associated with a particular client, or would prefer for commercial reasons to act for a different party. It is therefore an important safeguard for access to justice and the independence of the Bar.
2. Further information from the Bar Standards Board Press Office on 020 7611 1452.
3. The Bar Standards Board regulates barristers called to the Bar in England and Wales in the public interest.
It is responsible for:
- Setting the education and training requirements for becoming a barrister
- Setting continuing training requirements to ensure that barristers’ skills are maintained throughout their careers
- Setting standards of conduct for barristers
- Monitoring the service provided by barristers to assure quality, and
- Handling complaints against barristers and taking disciplinary or other action where appropriate.