Bar Council launches third-party client money account

In a move badged as enabling wider access to the bar, the Bar Council has launched a third-party escrow account to handle client payments.

The account, to be known as Barco, will be run by Barclays. Under Bar Council rules barristers are unable to handle client money and Barco will provide a system for managing payments that is expected to provide greater certainty.

The initiative will launch next year after a pilot phase and a national roadshow this autumn.

Barco follows an increase in the use of direct access to the bar (18 July 2012) and will provide an easier route for payment in such cases, although it can also be used for all types of instructions.

In a statement, Bar Council chair Michael Todd QC said: “Demand for barristers’ advocacy and advisory services is growing all over the world. Domestic and international clients of all sizes, which regularly turn to the bar, need a trustworthy and transparent vehicle to manage payment of their legal and litigation costs.

“Barco puts the bar on a level-playing field, whether through the traditional referral model, offering public access services, or, in the future, structuring itself as an entity.”

Barco will operate as a limited liability company and is applying to be regulated by the Financial Services Authority. All funds will be held in a ring-fenced Barclays account.