The Law Society has claimed that the terms of engagement, which came into effect at the end of January, are “weighted strongly in favour of barristers”. In a practice note, the Society has raised particular concern over clauses strengthening barristers’ intellectual property rights; exclusions from liability; increased hourly rates; payment terms; and money laundering responsibilities.
Several firms of solicitors have contacted chambers to advise that they have no intention of agreeing to the new contractual terms.
The Bar Council has mounted a rigorous defence. Expressing surprise and disappointment, the Bar Council warned that “the Law Society’s proposed variations give rise to some serious potential difficulties. For example, some of the variations run counter to guidance already approved by the Law Society, and some might lead to barristers incurring liabilities which are not covered by their professional indemnity insurance, resulting in a risk of professional misconduct and detriment to lay clients. One would give the solicitor absolute discretion about when the barrister should be paid, which could lead to financial hardship for the barrister unless proper safeguards were agreed.”
Specific guidance from the Bar Council is available on the fees collection page of www.barcouncil.org.uk.