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THE BAR Council has set a cap on barristers' conditional fees at 10 per cent even though the Lord Chancellor will allow a maximum of 100 per cent.
The cap was set as part of the Bar's draft terms of engagement for counsel. To protect the public, the Bar is also likely to propose that if the total of counsel and solicitors' success fees and expenses exceeds the client's damages and costs, the solicitor's firm and barrister will reduce their fees.
This will in effect reduce the client's finance to nil, but would also ensure there was no debt to the lawyers.
Responding to the charge that this may still be tough on the client, a Bar Council spokesman says: "We have to give the profession the credit for doing this of their own volition, when the Lord Chancellor has refused to do so. He has put the ball in to the profession's court, and they are having to run with it."
The Lord Chancellor, while finalising his draft rules on conditional fees, says he lacks the power to set a cap on clients' overall damages and costs.
Both solicitors and barristers will be allowed a maximum uplift of 100 per cent on their fees under forthcoming rules.
But the Law Society is also concerned about exhausting clients' damages and had wanted Lord Mackay to cap conditional fees at 25 per cent of total damages.
The Bar's draft terms of engagement were discussed at a Bar Council meeting, which is expected to make final decisions on it next month.
* The Bar is to consider the radical issue of allowing employed barristers to stand for election to the roles of Bar Council chair and vice- chair for the first time.
Proposed by Neil Addison, a council member representing the employed Bar, the motion is expected to be voted on at this month's council meeting. The Bar has just elected the first employed barrister, Michael Blair, to the post of treasurer.