Bar Council delays new fee contract scheme

The new fee contract between barristers and solicitors, which was due to be introduced on 1 October, is being delayed by a year.

The new arrangements, which will govern the fee relationship between privately paying solicitors and barristers, has been held up due to software suppliers not being able to produce a new infrastructure in time for the October deadline.

The Bar Council has also put the delay down to the fact that the actual rules will not be changed in time, while the idea of running the old and new terms of work parallel to each other had not proved popular.

Bar Council chair Geoffrey Vos QC said the proposition now is for there to be a complete changeover on 1 October 2008.

“I fully expect the new terms to be better for all concerned,” said Vos. “Barristers will get paid what they’re properly due and solicitors will not feel unfairly treated, while disputes will be resolved speedily and fairly.”

The new fee contract will herald a fairer system for solicitors as it will see the scrapping of the Withdrawal of Credit Scheme.

Under the scheme barristers are not currently allowed to take instructions from solicitors who have been blacklisted for failure to pay, unless that lawyer is willing to pay up front.

As part of the renewed system a list of defaulting solicitors will still exist, but barristers can choose whether to accept an instruction without payment upfront.

The new contract will also provide for binding arbitration through a revamped version of the joint tribunal. On the basis of this decision, a barrister could then go on to sue for fees.