Bar Standards Board consults on the impact of the Legal Services Act

07 FEB 2008

The way in which barristers provide services to consumers may change considerably following proposals published by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) yesterday.

The reforms could see barristers working in partnerships, including with other professionals, and possibly, in the longer term, providing services directly to the public in non-legal organisations, under the so-called 'Tesco-law' model. The proposals follow the provisions in the Legal Services Act which facilitate new ways of providing legal service and seek views on how the rules governing barristers should change to accommodate these.

The consultation paper published yesterday poses a number of questions, including:

  • whether the 'cab-rank' rule, which requires barristers to take on a case brought to them provided they are able to do so, should be restricted to the self-employed Bar;
  • whether barristers should be able to form partnerships with each other, or Legal Disciplinary Partnerships with other non-barrister lawyers and a minority of lay people;
  • whether barristers should be allowed to provide legal services if they are part of an 'alternative business structure';
  • whether self-employed barristers should be authorised to provide litigation services in similar ways to solicitors, and whether the Bar Vocational Course, currently the subject of a separate BSB review, should include training in this;
  • whether a compensation fund would be needed under a reformed regulatory regime.

Commenting on the consultation exercise, BSB Chair Ruth Evans said:
We may not see barristers selling their services in the supermarket aisles quite yet, but we can expect changes in the way some organise their affairs and offer their services.

"The policy purpose of the Legal Services Act 2007 is to increase choice in legal services by creating a permissive framework for different models of practice. This will mean the emergence of new types of consumer-oriented, legal businesses.

"These are prospectively once-in-a-generation changes to the way in which barristers are regulated in the public interest, and the BSB is determined to devise a package, which creates the maximum benefit for those who have a stake in the services of the Bar."

More information, including the consultation paper, can be found on the BSB website: www.barstandardsboard.org.uk

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