Barristers will be able to refuse work where there is an “unacceptable risk” that they will be not be paid, after the Legal Services Board (LSB) approved plans submitted to it by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).
The reform removes from the BSB’s rules the statement that the cab rank does not apply if a solicitor is on the list of defaulting solicitors. BSB guidance states that the list can provide evidence that a solicitor poses a non-payment risk. The Bar Council will therefore continue to maintain it.
In the decision notice, the LSB’s chief executive, Richard Moriarty, welcomed the removal of the list from the BSB’s rules.
He said it “risks compromising” the BSB’s regulatory independence and he predicted that the new provisions “may widen the circumstances in which barristers can refuse a client”.
Before refusing work, barristers will be expected to consider alternatives, such as obtaining payment in advance or using a third party payment service.
The change followed a review by the BSB of the decision to retain the existing cab rank rule following the introduction of standard contractual terms between barristers and solicitors in 2013.
The BSB reviewed the regime after an LSB investigation found the Bar Council had interfered with the BSB’s independence in relation to the controversial contract and cab rank changes.
Commenting, BSB director of regulatory policy, Ewen MacLeod, said, “We are pleased that the Legal Services Board has approved our changes to the regulatory arrangements relating to the cab rank rule,” which came into effect from 2 September.