Barristers will increasingly be able to offer their services to solicitors on a contractual basis in future, giving them greater certainty that they will be paid.
The Legal Services Board has now approved a Bar Standards Board (BSB) amendment to the code of conduct, under which the cab rank rule will apply to both a new standard conditions of contract and to the barrister’s own contractual terms as published on their chambers website.
The existing exclusions to the cab rank rule, such as conflict of interest or not being available, will continue to apply. The change is likely to come into effect at the end of October, although no date had been set at the time of going to press. Ewen Macleod, head of professional practice at the BSB, said it used to be a breach of the solicitors code of conduct for a solicitor not to pay a barrister’s fee, but that was no longer the case. Barristers are also entitled to excuse themselves from the cab rank rule if the instructing solicitor is on the “list of defaulting solicitors”.
Macleod said: “[Under the new system] the cab rank rule will apply if the barrister is instructed either on the new standard contractual terms or on the barrister’s own contractual terms. “There was a suggestion [from the Law Society] that it was unfair to require solicitors to accept these terms or the barrister’s to make use of the cab rank rule but we thought that extending the rule to any terms would not be fair on barristers because they would have no freedom to re-negotiate the terms of instruction.
We disagreed with the Law Society’s view and we think the new standard terms strike the right balance between the cab rank rule, which promotes access to justice, and the restrictions this rule imposes on the barrister.”