Piba proposals win Bar's approval

John Malpas reports

A RIFT between the Bar Council and the personal injury barristers' group over model conditional fee terms of engagement appears to have been healed.

The Bar Council has given its qualified approval to model terms of engagement which were unilaterally adopted by the Personal Injury Bar Association (Piba) last year.

The Bar's legal services committee has indicated that it is happy with the document in the light of advice issued by Piba that barristers should not adopt an optional clause which would make it contractually binding.

The news has been met with relief by Piba, which drew up the document with the help of the solicitor-dominated Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Apil).

It was hailed as a major breakthrough when it was unveiled during Apil's November conference after the Law Society's and Bar Council's failure to agree on the issue despite lengthy negotiations.

But its launch was clouded by the Bar Council's decision not to follow the Law Society's lead in approving the document because of concerns over the optional clause.

Since then, however, the Bar Council has been mollified by a letter sent out with the document to barristers by Piba which strongly advises barristers not to enter into contracts.

Bar legal services committee secretary John Lloyd said the committee was "content" with the model agreement taken together with Piba's advice.

Piba president Daniel Brennan QC said: "I think the conditional fees agreement as endorsed by Piba provides a good basis for ensuring that the Bar can give the best service to the client.

"I'm pleased that it has met with the broad approval of the Bar and the Law Society."