This was the background. The clear and cogent view that came from all circuits was that the publicly funded Bar doing criminal and family work is having to attempt to work on such unfair terms that it must be allowed some new business structure through which it can compete with solicitors. Referral fees and block contracting must be dealt with - the first by being outlawed, the second by being allowed to barristers, possibly through a special purpose vehicle. We heard senior representatives of the Bar, heads of large sets of circuit chambers, express their near desperation on behalf of their junior tenants and would-be-pupils, not so much on their own behalves.

We were left in little doubt about the poor prospects for the publicly funded Bar. Although not persuaded that there was ever a considered policy for undermining the referral Bar in the way that has happened, we are convinced that when the Bar Council and the BSB identify a new business structure that can allow junior barristers to survive, and thrive, by taking advantage of the same opportunities that are available to solicitors, then we must do all we can to establish and regulate that structure. We are working at the BSB to get that right.

Baroness Ruth Deech
Chair, Bar Standards Board