The ‘complex language and mannerisms’ of barristers make it harder for clients and witnesses to understand the legal process, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said in a report stressing the importance of ‘cross-cultural’ communication.

The report, which came out of a symposium, Does cross-cultural communication matter at the Bar? said the Bar’s ‘distinct and tribal culture’ contributes to a ‘damaging perception’ that the justice system is ‘remote, powerful and inaccessible’, which can erode faith in the legal process.

This, it warned, may lead clients to seek representation from providers from their own cultural background, even if those services may not be the most appropriate for their particular case, or may discourage them from seeking legal help.

It said: ‘The formalities of court culture and the obscure, often alien language used in legal proceedings can accentuate problems in cross-cultural communication, leaving clients and witnesses confused and alienated.’

BSB director-general, Dr Vanessa Davies, said: ‘Being able to communicate clearly and effectively with people from different backgrounds is essential.

‘Making sure barristers meet a competent standard of cultural awareness and understanding is a key component of the Professional Statement and an important theme in our strategy for 2016-19.’

Meanwhile, in a separate report, Risk Outlook, the regulator has warned that commercial pressures due to legal aid cuts and increased competition from other providers, may lead to compromised ethical principles, lowered standards and inappropriate pricing to win business.

The regulator noted that commercial pressures can stimulate innovation and creativity, enabling competitive advantages to be created, improving the consumer experience and potentially driving down costs.

But, while many respond positively, others respond in ways that could lead to outcomes that harm consumers.

The report said that the Bar needs to understand, plan for and adapt to the changing economic situation and identify opportunities to innovate.

BSB chair, Sir Andrew Burns, said: ‘The Risk Outlook confirms our commitment to regulating in the public interest by recognising that the profession needs to meet consumer need, to address diversity issues and respond to commercial pressures.

‘The Risk Outlook is by no means a static document. We want to nurture and continue a dialogue with all stakeholders as the legal market continues to evolve.’