Fee defaults hit record level

The Bar Council has received a record number of complaints from barristers whose fees have not been paid by solicitors.

In February, there were 82 complaints – the highest ever for that time period and one of the highest monthly figures since records began more than 10 years ago.

Bar Council officials are at a loss to explain the surge in failures by solicitors to pay barristers' fees.

“It has certainly gone up in the last two or three years,” confirmed professional standards executive secretary Mark Stobbs. “But it may simply be that solicitors are still feeling the difficulties of the economic climate.”

Stobbs added that, when it came to paying barristers fees, solicitors were often hamstrung as they were facing their own difficulties in getting money from clients.

Others within the Inns have suggested the sharp increase in outstanding fees could simply be the result of one or two solicitors who owe money to a large number of barristers.

While it plans to continue to monitor the fees situation carefully, the Bar Council has no immediate plans to take action on the issue.

The Bar Council and the Law Society already provide a joint arbitration service for those lawyers involved in fee disputes. If this fails, chambers can issue a withdrawal of credit notice and only accept work on legal aid matters with advance payments.