Changes to the ‘cab rank’ rule approved last week will pave the way for new standard contractual terms between solicitors and barristers.
Under amendments to the Bar Standards Board’s code of conduct approved by the Legal Services Board, the cab rank rule will apply where work is offered to a barrister on the new contractual terms or any standard terms offered by the barrister. The cab rank rule will not apply to work offered by firms named on the List of Defaulting Solicitors, where a solicitor has not paid a barrister’s fees.
Increasingly barristers are seeking to agree contractual terms with solicitors and mitigate the risk of non-payment. Under the current code they are not obliged to accept instructions on negotiated contractual terms. The BSB says this undermines the cab rank rule. In October 2011 it applied to the Legal Services Board to change the rules, but in January the LSB issued a notice warning that it was considering refusing the application.
Following the notice, the Law Society raised concerns that the new contractual terms were biased in favour of barristers.
Granting the BSB’s application last week, LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said he did not consider the BSB’s solution to the issue to be ‘the most appropriate’ but that there is ‘no reason’ to refuse it.
He added: ‘In making this decision, the LSB has formed no view on the appropriateness of the cab rank rule.’
A BSB spokesman said the regulator looks forward to liaising with the Bar Council to implement and publicise the change, and will provide details of the process after the summer break. The decision will pave the way for the introduction of new standard contractual terms, which the BSB expects many barristers to adopt.