Monday, 20 May 2013

The Barrister Trade is to be Liberalised

Ever since October 2011 the legal economy in England and Wales has seen some exciting new competitors emerge. Thanks of course to the 'Big Bang' moment brought about by the Legal Services Act 2007 - otherwise known as Tesco Law.

All the while the Barrister trade has remained static (bar a few developments such as Stobbart Barristers and myBARRISTER, an online barrister portal) and as we've seen, under attack from Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling and the Justice Department in Whitehall.

Any way, as far back as 2010 there has been talk of the Bar Standards Board (BSB) liberalised the barrister profession. See Guardian article by Joshua Rozenburg here.

More recently there has been whispers and calls for deregulation of the barrister trade here and here.

Here's a quick excerpt from the first of the two links directly above which captures the mood among barristers:
'Where solicitors beat us is in litigation. Currently the Bar Standards Board prohibits barristers from engaging in litigation. The definition of “litigation” is not always clear, and isn’t properly defined. Instead we are told what we can’t do. Let’s say a small business comes to me, and wishes to take an action against someone for, say, infringing copyright on one of their media products. They can instruct me directly, without the need for a solicitor.'
Well as luck may have it, Legal Futures' Neil Rose has recently reported that barristers could soon have the tools to compete with solicitors as the BSB seeks approval for liberalisation from the Legal Services Board.
'Submitting its new Handbook for approval by the Legal Services Board, the BSB said it is proposing a regulatory model that will have “fewer risks for clients, fewer overheads for legal professionals and hence the possibility of lower-cost services to clients of limited means”. 
Once approved, it will come into force in January 2014. The next step will be for the BSB to apply to regulate entities – which it hopes to start doing at the start of 2014 – followed by an application to become an alternative business structure (ABS) licensing authority. The plan is to start licensing advocacy-focused ABSs in the second half of 2014. 
The Handbook application said: “The market for legal services is changing. On the supply side, there is growing competition between barristers and solicitors for advocacy and, in future, litigation work, with greater fluidity between different types of practice and regulatory regime (with barristers increasingly having the option to choose between different business structures and/or regulator).'
Read the article by Neil Rose in full here.


  1. Excellent post Brian, I really enjoyed this one. Hope you'll check out my law firm's website when you have some time as well.

    - Jaclyn
    Somerville personal injury law firm


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