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Non-practising barristers last Saturday called on the Bar Council to reverse a “farcical” rule change which bans them from acting as advocates.
The alteration to paragraph 212 of the Bar’s code of conduct came into effect on 1 June and removes rights of audience from any barrister not in independent practice or working in-house.
The rule applies not only in courts but also in tribunals and public inquiries, unless a waiver is granted.
So far about 60 non-practising barristers, out of a Bar Council estimate of 2,800, have applied for a waiver and 20 per cent have been refused.
Dr Peter Gray, secretary of the Employed and Non-Practising Bar Association (ENPBA), which sponsored the motion put at the Bar Council’s AGM last Saturday, said it was right for the Bar Council to insist non-practising barristers had a minimum competence and that they bought insurance.
But he added that it was a “farce” that non-practising members were being denied rights exercisable by unqualified members of the public.
“The fact that the Bar Council has attempted to impose this prohibition at all shows how desperate they are to defend the interests of barristers in independent practice in the face of the Lord Chancellor’s legal reforms,” said Gray. “I have no intention of complying with this rule, and I do not know anyone else who does.”
Following a successful application by the Institute of Legal Executives earlier this year, ENPBA has applied directly to the Lord Chancellor’s department for rights of audience for its members.
Mark Stobbs, head of the Bar Council’s professional standards department, said the public had to be protected: “Some non-practising barristers offer legal services on the high street when they haven’t even completed pupillage.”
Barristers who have requalified as solicitors have already protested about another rule change made at the same time, which means they can no longer describe themselves as barristers but instead must refer to themselves as “suspended from practice as a barrister as a result of becoming qualified to practise as a solicitor”.
The Lawyer understands some barristers affected are considering taking the rule change to judicial review.