Bar examines ethics of solicitor hospitality

The Bar Standards Boards (BSB) has issued a consultation into the extent barristers should be allowed to entertain solicitors and other professional clients.

The consultation, by the BSB’s Standards Committee, is seeking views on whether hospitality, such as taking solicitors to Wimbledon or the opera, should be restricted, prohibited altogether or alternatively relaxed.

Advertising and marketing strategies have been allowed under the Code of Conduct since 1994. However, paragraph 307(d) expressly forbids the giving of presents. The consultation, which is inviting submission until 1 March 2007, poses the question as to whether this should be less strict.

The Committee also wants opinions on whether the public would perceive that solicitors are instructing certain barristers because they have been “entertained” by that set instead of being the best advocate for the specific case, which is in breach of paragraph 301 of the Code.

The consultation paper says: “The Committee takes the view that there will come a stage where the level of entertainment is so lavish that there is a clear breach of Rule 301 and possibly of Rule 307 also.”