Bar Standards Board sets three-year plan for overhaul

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is set to overhaul the code of conduct for barristers for the first time, setting aside three years for the project.

The BSB has published a consultation paper for barristers to give their opinion on how the rules should be updated to take into account the Legal Services Bill and suggestions from the Office of Fair Trading that certain parts of the code may be anti-competitive.

In the paper, the BSB calls for a review of a variety of rules including those governing entry requirements to the bar, administration of chambers and what work barristers can and cannot take on.

This includes the controversial ‘cab rank’ rule, which forces barristers to take on cases that they might have otherwise refused.

The consultation paper said: “In requiring barristers to represent people they disapprove of or achieve results which go against their profoundly held beliefs, it could be said to be contrary to barristers’ human rights.”

The launch of the consultation paper coincides with the release of the BSB’s first annual report. The total cost of the BSB has risen to £3.5m from £3m last year, which has been attributed to increased staff and research costs.

The report said: “The Bar Council and the Finance Committee showed considerable understanding and flexibility in dealing with our requests for additional expenditure – in particular, the costs of research, of the board’s identity and launch and some additional posts.”