Bar Council unable to disbar solicitors

John Malpas reports

A MOVE to force barristers to disbar if they become solicitors has finally been ruled out by the Bar Council.

At its meeting earlier this month, the Bar Council conceded that there was nothing it could do to stop barristers from holding on to their qualification on becoming solicitors.

The Bar Council took legal advice on the issue after barrister Sally Hughes began practising as a solicitor last year and refused to voluntarily disbar, a move that the Law Society had required up until a rule change in 1993.

A report to the 13 July meeting of the Bar Council said it would have little chance of pushing through a rule change to force barristers to disbar.

"The situation is not ideal," it said. "The professional standards committee considered that the maintenance of separate branches of the profession remains in the public interest and that it is only likely to cause confusion when people are qualified in respect of both sides of the profession.

"There is a danger of a clash between disciplinary jurisdictions and of real confusion among the public."

The Bar Council will encourage barristers to disbar when moving to the other side of the profession to avoid the confusion of being regulated by two professional bodies.

Barristers who keep their title will also be told to refer to themselves as non-practising and be reminded that their rights of audience are exercised in their capacity as solicitors, not barristers.

Neil Addison, a member of the Bar Council, said: "The problem would not have occurred if barristers were not forced to qualify as solicitors because they were denied rights of audience as law firm employees. This just shows that the rules are bureaucratic and outdated and the Bar has to face up to that, rather than reacting to events in this way."