Bar consults Biddle over partnerships

The Bar Council has commissioned a secret report to examine whether the Bar's practice rules should be altered to allow barristers to form partnerships.

In February, Dan Brennan QC, vice-chairman of the Bar Council, asked City firm Biddle to consider whether the traditional structure of chambers would have to be changed in the light of government plans to replace legal aid with conditional fees in personal injury cases.

Barristers have always taken pride in the fact they are independent advocates, but the reforms mean they will have to co-operate more closely, in order to share the risks of undertaking conditional fee work.

Last month Geoff Hoon, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department, said a new set of ethical principles would have to be adopted under the new regime.

The Bar Council fears that under the present structure of the Bar, chambers, unlike law firms, will not be able to take on significant amounts of no win no fee work, for fear tenants will simply walk out in the face of a run of losses.

One response already adopted by several chambers is to set up a limited company to run chambers which would be responsible for managing the set's no win no fee work.

But The Lawyer understands that Biddle was specifically asked to investigate alternative structures including partnerships.

The report – which has not even been seen by the Bar's general management committee – is expected to be considered by the Bar Council in May.

Brennan said: 'The Bar is in the process of obtaining independent advice in relation to the effects on the Bar of some of the Government's legal aid and civil justice changes.'

He confirmed Biddle was preparing the report but declined to comment on what brief it had been given or the conclusions of the report.