The Bar Standards Board has given the green light for the introduction of standard contractual terms that will enable barristers to sue solicitors for unpaid fees.
The proposals, which are due to be accepted after amendment at the Board’s next meeting later this month, will replace the current non-contractual Terms of Work under which barristers operate.
This will enable barristers to sue solicitors for non-payment of fees.
The withdrawal of credit scheme, under which barristers are prohibited from accepting work from ‘blacklisted’ solicitors without payment in advance, and which the Law Society had threatened to challenge as being unlawful, will be abolished.
It will be replaced by an advisory list of defaulting solicitors maintained by the Bar Council, listing those against whom a court judgment had been made in respect of unpaid fees.
The BSB dropped its proposal that the new terms be applied in default of any other agreement being in place.
The remaining point for the Board to determine before it approves the final proposal is whether the cab rank rule should only apply to work offered to barristers on the standard terms contained within the new contractual terms.
The Bar Council and the Law Society had tried to negotiate the terms of a new contract for the best part of decade, but the two professions were not able to agree on the standard terms and the Law Society has ceased to be involved in the negotiations.
Charles Hollander QC, chair of the BSB’s standards committee, said the current rules are ‘completely obsolete’ and ‘have to go’, particularly in light of the fact that the solicitors’ code of conduct removed the professional obligation to pay barristers’ fees in 2007.
Last week, the BSB said that it will allow barristers to conduct litigation.