Proceedings were issued by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) over the legality of the scheme in September. Respondents served are the Legal Services Board (LSB), with the Bar Standards Board (BSB), Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards as interested parties.

Public law specialists, consulted over the summer by the CBA, had advised that QASA was open to legal challenge “for reasons far broader and fundamental than the legitimate objections already raised by the Criminal Bar,” said Nigel Lithman QC, new Chair of the CBA. Judicial review was an “inevitable step”, he said, but success was “not guaranteed”.

Dinah Rose QC and Tom De La Mare QC of Blackstone Chambers, and Joanna Ludlum of Baker McKenzie, are acting pro bono, with the action indemnified by the CBA.

The LSB has said it will respond to the judicial review “in line with established procedures” and will make every effort to “limit the cost exposure of the legal profession to this action on behalf of the criminal Bar”. Lithman, who previously accused the BSB of “meanness of spirit” in not declaring the same, said that “current exchanges involved our trying to cap the cost of proceedings”.

Vanessa Davies, Director of the BSB, confirmed that: “The claimants, the LSB (as defendants) and the BSB as an interested party have written to the court regarding costs. This is a matter for the court to decide. The BSB has now written twice to Baker and McKenzie who are acting for the claimants and the CBA, offering to discuss a suitable costs cap: there was no response to this suggestion.”

No stay of steps towards implementation had been sought, said the BSB, and the scheme will remain open for registration. If permission for judicial review is granted, the case would be “heard and decided before any assessments are made and the first phase of registration ends,” it added.