24 August 2019

Latest edition of BSB Handbook introduces new Bar transparency rules

On 1 July, we published new transparency rules in a revised edition of our Handbook. The new rules came into force on that date. They are designed to improve the information available to the public before they engage the services of a barrister.

The rules follow recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority that legal regulators should introduce new requirements in this area. The rules relate to information about the areas of law in which you practise, the legal services you provide, what those services cost, and your client's right to redress.

If you are a self-employed barrister, the rules require you (or your chambers or BSB-regulated entity) to:

  • state that professional, licensed access and/or lay clients (as appropriate) may contact you to obtain a quotation for legal services;
  • provide contact details;
  • state your most commonly used pricing models, such as fixed fees or hourly rates;
  • state the areas of practice in which you most commonly provide legal services;
  • describe your most commonly provided legal services;
  • provide information about the factors which might influence the timescales of your most commonly provided legal services;
  • display text on website homepages indicating you are regulated by the Bar Standards Board;
  • display information about complaints procedures, any right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), how to complain to the LeO, and any time limits for making a complaint;
  • link to the decision data on the LeO's website; and
  • link to the Barristers' Register pageon the BSB's website.

There are also additional transparency rules with which you must comply in relation to the provision of the following services if you do so as a Public Access barrister:

  • Employment Tribunal cases (advice and representation for employers and employees);
  • Financial disputes arising out of divorce;
  • Immigration appeals (First-tier Tribunal);
  • Inheritance Act advice;
  • Licensing applications in relation to business premises;
  • Personal injury claims;
  • Summary only motoring offences (advice and representation for defendants); and
  • Winding-up petitions.

If you provide these services as a Public Access barrister, in certain circumstances listed in the BSB's price transparency policy statement, you will be required by the rules to:

  • state any pricing model(s) which you use, such as whether you charge fixed fees or hourly rates;
  • state your indicative fees and the circumstances in which they may vary;
  • state whether your fees include VAT (where applicable);
  • state any likely additional costs or give a typical range of costs if only an estimate is possible; and
  • describe the relevant Public Access services you provide, including a concise statement of the key stages and an indicative timescale for those key stages.

You have until January 2020 to be fully compliant with the new rules, after which, we will start spot-checking. Our initial focus will be on ensuring compliance rather than pursuing disciplinary sanctions.

Online guidance is available to help you comply with the new rules. The new edition of the BSB Handbook is also available online.

And finally, more information about the new rules is available on our website.