Some solicitors are overcharging clients for the work done by barristers, the Bar Council has claimed.

In a practice note, Retainers, Fee Arrangements and Non-Standard Work Arrangements, revised in February, the Bar Council said it is aware that in some situations, solicitors are charging clients more for the services provided by barristers than the barristers themselves are charging.

The Bar Council’s Ethics and Remuneration Committee explained that the practice may be permissible in some situations, for instance where the arrangement is one in which the barristers’ fees are genuinely a cost to the solicitors themselves, or where it is done with the informed agreement of a ‘sophisticated commercial client’.

But it warned that it is ‘quite wrong’ where the barristers’ fees ought to be charged as a disbursement, and said it could raise serious questions about the solicitors’ professional conduct.

The committee said: ‘In most circumstances, this will not be an issue for you. You will not usually be aware of communications between your solicitors and their client about fees.’

It added: ‘Your solicitors’ charges to their client are also primarily a matter between your solicitors and that client, and whether your solicitors’ actions are permissible is a matter of law and conduct for your solicitors as independent professionals.’

However, the note told barristers to ensure that they are not ‘actively and knowingly’ involved in any arrangement where the client is charged more for their services than they are charging in circumstances in which it is unlawful or in breach of the solicitor’s duties to the client.