Barristers will soon be allowed to refuse work from solicitors who are deemed to pose an ‘unacceptable’ credit risk under changes to the ‘cab rank’ rule by the Bar Standards Board.

The change makes it easier for barristers to decline instructions under the time-honoured but little-invoked rule. However, the rule states that barristers ‘will be expected’ to consider alternatives, such as getting an advance payment or using a third-party payment service, before refusing to take on a case.

The BSB said the new rule, which it hopes will come into force by the end of July, will take an ‘outcomes-focused approach’, and will replace the list of defaulting solicitors.

The regulator also confirmed that it has decided to retain the reference to standard contractual terms within the cab rank rule, despite opposition to the terms from the Law Society which said solicitors should not bear all the risk if clients do not pay. 

Following a discussion at a board meeting last week, the regulator now intends to respond formally to the Legal Services Board for approval to make the rule change by the end of July.

The BSB was made to review the cab rank rule after the LSB found that the Bar Council had breached rules by interfering in the regulator’s decision-making over changes to the rule. The change enforced the standard contractual terms between solicitors and barristers.

A BSB spokesman stressed that the decision about the cab rank rule has been reached ‘entirely independently’ of the bar and its representative bodies.

‘We have collated evidence from a wide range of interested parties, and analysed the issues with reference to the regulatory objectives and the consumer interest,’ he said.