Clampdown on the 'cowboy' barristers

SOLICITORS are getting tough with “cowboy” barristers who double book and let down their clients.

The Criminal Law Solicitors' Association (CLSA) is to launch a barristers' charter pinpointing standards that counsel should meet.

The charter aims to put the solicitor-barrister relationship on a more formal footing and includes sanctions against those who fail to come up to scratch.

Michael Hopkinson, who is compiling the charter to be launched this month at the CLSA annual conference, says the two bugbears in criminal work are broken conferences and last-minute changes in counsel.

“There is too much over-booking and the victims of that are the poor defendants who end up with someone else,” says Hopkinson, of Manchester-based firm Bridgwood & Hopkinson.

“The ultimate sanction if the charter is not met is that the brief can be taken away.

“It is a modest move. The charter puts into writing what people should be doing and by and large they are.” He adds that it is aimed at the “cowboys”.

A Bar Council spokesman says the issues raised are likely to be addressed in the final report of the standards review body, to be published later this month.

He says the report will include tightening up the rules on the late return of briefs.