The introduction of standard contractual terms between barristers and solicitors has been delayed by three months to make sure all firms and chambers are prepared, the Bar Standards Board announced today.
The new terms will now take effect from 31 January 2013. They had been previously scheduled to take effect from 31 October this year.
The bar’s regulator said: ‘Following feedback from a range of stakeholders, the deadline was extended to enable instructing solicitors, barristers’ chambers, their practice managers and software providers to adjust to the changes being proposed.’
It said: ‘All chambers will be expected to comply with the new provisions from 31 January 2013.’
Barristers are increasingly seeking to agree contractual terms with solicitors to mitigate the risk of non-payment, rather than operating on the traditional default system of non-contractual arrangements. The new arrangements aim to keep in step and modernise the process for the referral of work.
In August the Legal Services Board approved an amendment to the bar code of conduct, under which the cab rank rule will apply to both the new standard contractual terms and to barristers’ own contractual terms, as published on their chambers’ website.
The cab rank rule obliges a barrister to accept any instruction from a solicitor unless specific exemptions apply, making it professional misconduct for a barrister to refuse to represent a lay client because the barrister, for example, does not want to appear to be associated with a particular client, or would prefer for commercial reasons to act for a different party.
Previously barristers were not obliged to accept instructions on negotiated contractual terms. The BSB said this undermined the cab rank rule.
Barristers and solicitors will remain free to negotiate such terms as they see fit and existing exclusions to the cab rank rule, such as conflict of interest or not being available, will continue to apply.