The Bar Standards Board is set to recommend that the cab rank rule for barristers should not be extended to public access cases. At its board meeting last night, the regulator said extending the rule could create a barrier to access to justice by deterring barristers from public access. 

It will publish a consultation paper on its proposals next week. The consultation follows a review undertaken last year into public access and licensed access schemes to consider whether changes were needed to improve clients' experiences.

Public access schemes allow lay clients to instruct barristers directly without instruction a solicitor or other lawyer.

One of the major points of the consultation is on the cab-rank rule and whether it should be extended for public access cases.

As it stands the rule applies only to cases referred to barristers from another lawyer. According to the BSB’s Handbook, the rule obliges a barrister to accept work in a field they say they are competent to practise in, at a court they normally appear at, and at their usual rates, irrespective of the identity of the client and any personal thoughts they may have.

But at last night's meeting the regulator recommended that, subject to the consultation, the rule should not be extended.

It said extending the rule could create a barrier for access to justice because some barristers may become less inclined to undertake public access work. Clients might also try to invoke the rule even if their case has little merit.

The consultation paper also outlines plans to amend public access rules so that they are ‘in line with the more outcomes-focused approach’ of the BSB Handbook.

The regulator is also considering replacing a requirement for barristers who are of less than three years standing to maintain a public access log with a more ‘effective’ means of seeking client feedback and requiring barristers to disclose the level of professional indemnity insurance they have to public access clients.

The consultation is open until 26 September.