Barristers get go-ahead to entertain clients

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has decided against explicitly restricting the extent to which barristers can offer hospitality to solicitors and clients.

Instead, the board is recommending a “blush test” to offer guidance as to how far barristers can go. The guidelines recommend that barristers should not offer entertainment that either party would feel embarrassed to disclose to colleagues, clients or regulator.

The decision comes following a consultation that launched six months ago (The Lawyer, 13 December 2006) that concluded that no evidence of abuse or inappropriate behaviour could be found.

The 18-member BSB committee, led by Brick Court Chambers’ Charles Hollander QC, reviewed the consultation results and made one small change to the current conduct rules.

Barristers will now be permitted to give small promotional items such as branded stationery of nominal value, but will continue to be prohibited from giving commission or any other presents to those who may instruct them.

Ruth Evans, chairman of the BSB, said: “We recognise there are legitimate reasons for client entertainment by barristers and sets of chambers and stress that it’s incumbent on both the bar and those they entertain to ensure that these legitimate business relationships do not thrive at the expense of clients’ interests.”