As the legal services sector liberalises, often-daily announcements confirm increased competition from unfamiliar sources. As we report today, the Bar Council’s launch of ‘BarCo’, a third-party escrow account to hold client money is the latest – allowing as it will, barristers to offer a full range of legal services without breaching their code of conduct and to handle client money themselves.
Do solicitors have reason to mind this development? Is BarCo just a selfish land-grab for solicitors’ traditional turf? Possibly, though readers are unlikely to be picketing chambers with placards reading ‘Barristers go home!’. There is surely a limit to how challenged anyone can feel by a closely related professional emulating some of their ways. After all, do we not want to see more solicitor-advocates?
At best, this looks like the sort of practical step in keeping with a slowly fusing profession, as mooted by former Law Society president John Wotton in January. The two branches are now that little bit closer.
Look at it from the bar’s point of view. It is a challenge to convey the message that, in the words of the press release, BarCo ‘is more than simply a bank account’.
Solicitors will know that there are barristers who look down on them – those who have encountered such an attitude may allow themselves a satisfied smirk at the identity of the latest source of competition.