The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has launched a consultation that could change the future regulation of barristers.
The proposed reforms, announced today (6 February) could see barristers working in partnerships with other professions. It even suggests the possibility of providing services directly to the public under what has been dubbed the Tesco-law model.
The consultation, which closed on 9 May, comes in response to the provisions outlined in the Legal Services Act which offers new opportunities to deliver legal services.
Mark Stobbs, a BSB director, said that the key issues are around the way the bar can utilise Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) and Legal Disciplinary Practices (LDPs).
"Ought we be looking to abolish the rule against partnerships, for instance," said Stobbs. "Practically, I can't see how we can't. This then begs the question of removing the cab rank rule so that in a partnership barristers are on an even footing with their possible solicitor counterparts."
Stobbs added opening up the bar to partnerships also brings in issues of whether the BSB should be regulating those allied with barristers, such as accounts and surveyors.
In addition, the consultation questions whether self-employed barristers should be allowed to undertake what is traditionally seen as solicitor work, such as taking witness statements.
Stobbs urged the bar to take a hard look at this consultation as it will have huge impacts on the barristers and the way they work.
"At the moment I don't think a lot of the bar has woken up to this," said Stobbs. "Some in the criminal bar have as a result of the Legal Services Commission's legal aid proposals make what the Act offers an attractive alternative but elsewhere there is only a very small minority taking a real interest."
Ruth Evans, the BSB Chair, added: "We may not see barristers selling their services in the supermarket aisles quite yet, but we can expect changes in the way some organise their affairs and offer their services."