Theory and Practice Part 3

David Barnes, former Chairman of the IBC and Chief Executive of 39 Essex Street, offers a clerk’s view of BARCO.

Under rules rC73, rC74 and rC75 of the new Bar Handbook, formerly known as rule 407 of the old Code of Conduct, the handling of client money is strictly prohibited for any barrister practising in England and Wales. But what does this mean to practitioners and their clerks in everyday terms? Well, simply put, whilst there are some exceptions, if the client has any rights to have any funds refunded which have been unspent, then you are handling client money. Avoiding this pitfall can be cumbersome and sometimes lead to you taking adverse credit risk or, even worse, losing new business, something none of us can afford in this climate.


Handling client money is serious misconduct that will leave you uninsured and exposed. Chambers’ accounts are not an alternative and neither are your personal business accounts. If your fees are due and you are being paid for nothing more than that in accordance with your agreement with your client for work already done or that which has been clearly scoped out in advance, then you are within the rules. But if you are unsure of your fees or wish to take advantage of the Bar’s ability to conduct litigation, then the ability to have a third party take payment upfront where a refund of residual unspent funds may become due, is clearly the answer.

So if you can’t handle client money, and you can’t simply deposit it into your chambers account until the appropriate fee note has been raised then what options do you have? With public access instructions you can either scope the work out strictly beforehand for each piece of work, stopping and starting your work on a case until the appropriate remuneration has been received, you can bill in arrears (not a sound credit decision) or you can use BARCO.

BARCO allows you to secure your fees in its trusted third party account whilst ensuring that you are not handling client funds, which both eliminates your credit risk and improves your client’s experience. Why does it improve your client’s experience? Because it provides for smoother case management and offers them consumer protection they otherwise would not receive. For international instructions you no longer have to take a blind credit risk from a client you have never met through an overseas law firm.

You can now get your fees paid into BARCO, without handling the funds until you are contractually entitled to payment, without the burden of prescoping the whole matter.

I have worked with the BARCO executive team as a member of the BARCO committee since the Bar Council first considered developing the service. BARCO has been advanced in partnership with the Bar, clerks, our clients and the regulatory community since day one. BARCO was also developed through a consultative approach with City insurers and the banking community to ensure that we had a transparent, sensible and cost effective business model that would support the Bar for minimal investment. If you are not using BARCO you need to ask yourself why not.

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David Barnes

David is the Chief Executive and Director of Clerking at 39 Essex Chambers, which in 2012 were named Chambers of the Year at the British Legal Awards.