The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is more than halfway through its year-long study into the digital comparison tool (DCT) market for barristers. In the January issue of Counsel (‘Click and select’), we explained that DCTs allow consumers to search for service providers using a variety of criteria such as the provider’s location, service offered, price, availability and client reviews.

DCTs exist across many consumer markets, including the energy, insurance and broadband sectors. DCTs have also existed for a number of years in relation to the Bar. Our study aims understand more about DCTs serving the barristers’ market and the extent to which it can offer benefits to both the profession and clients. It is important to note that the BSB does not regulate DCTs.

As part of our study, we have engaged with several DCTs who have, over many years, signed up hundreds of barristers to their services. We have also identified – and engaged with – providers who have recently, or are planning to, enter the barristers’ DCT market. Some of these new market entrants already provide DCT services to solicitors. They are, therefore, expanding their reach within a sector in which they already operate.

In the coming months, we will reach out to barristers who already participate in DCTs, to learn about their experiences of using them. We encourage these barristers to engage with our research. We plan to undertake client-focused research to learn more about the clients’ experiences of using barrister DCTs.

An important element of our study into this market is to collect evidence of the equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) impact of DCTs – on both the Bar and consumers. Feedback offered by the Bar in recent months has provided us with valuable insights and we welcome further engagement in this area.

In the course of our conversations with the Bar, we have also heard many representations regarding online reviews written by consumers. For example, it has been suggested that reviews may discriminate against barristers with certain backgrounds, or that consumers may breach court orders when leaving them. We are exploring these matters as part of our study.

That said, it should also be appreciated that not all DCTs carry an option for clients to leave reviews, or use reviews as their principal tool for assisting future clients with their barrister selection. Some DCTs, for example, allow barristers to showcase their expertise to consumers via other means. These include providing in-depth biographies, indicating their professional memberships or accreditations, mentioning industry awards received, or by publishing articles on specialist legal topics.

We will continue to gather evidence for this study until September 2023 and publish our findings in 2024. In the meantime, we are not minded to mandate barristers to participate in DCTs. Nor do we see any clear need for the BSB to create its own barrister DCT service.

To learn more about the BSB’s DCT pilot, see the BSB website or email

See also ‘Click and select’, Rupika Madhura and Richard Parnham, Counsel January 2023.