Over the summer I was instructed by a Public Access client for a one day final Financial Remedy hearing. For one reason and another, the final hearing ended up as a day’s worth of negotiation, with every prospect of settlement. The case was adjourned for three months for a further final hearing. At the end of day the client said to me, “Can you please continue to represent me?”
The problem for us both was, at that moment, I had no idea how much work I was going to be asked to do. Was it merely the drafting of letters to try and fi nalise settlement, was there to be a round table meeting, did I need to draft an order? Neither of us had any idea precisely how much work was going to be required to either settle the matter, or to bridge us over to the adjourned final hearing.
The 13 attachments came to mind and I explained, briefly, about barristers not being able to hold client money and the nature of an escrow account. Back at my desk, with plenty of other things to do, I started to study the detail contained within the 13 attachments...
Then a light came on: was not Carol Harris of BARCO that helpful lady who used to administer the FLBA? Having picked up the phone to Carol, I established within about 5 minutes how the account worked. In short, the client funds would be securely deposited and could not be unilaterally withdrawn by the client. With the client’s and my respective signatures, and two certified identification documents, an escrow account was open and ready to receive client funds. It was really easy to set up.
I agreed a further retainer with the client; she could instruct me in various matters relating to her Financial Remedy claim, up to a limit of 10 further hours, whereupon she would have to enter into a new retainer with me or cease to instruct me. 10 hours’ worth of fees were deposited into the account. This was far easier than having to agree a new retainer every time she asked me to do a further piece of work.
The matter was eventually contested at the adjourned final hearing. Prior to this I drew down fees incurred to date. The escrow account was then topped up and a new retainer signed to cover the final hearing – once a BARCO account is open, all future fees in that matter must be paid via the account.
The BARCO service may also be of use to barrister mediators and arbitrators, wanting to secure funds. It may also assist members of the Bar being instructed via solicitor referral, where the parties wish to apply the ‘COMBAR basis B’ contractual terms (i.e. the solicitor will pay counsel if they receive funds from lay client, which the solicitor endeavours to do) and there are particular concerns about the lay client’s solvency or willingness to pay. In that event that barrister may wish to secure the fee, by way of an advance deposit into BARCO, falling short of having to ask for payment of fees up front. This may be of particular relevance to barristers undertaking family instructions.
The cost of 2% of gross fees is a tax deductible expense.