Bar applauds fees rule change

THE BAR Council has welcomed new rules on standard fees in magistrates' courts aimed at ending the pay disparity between barristers and freelance solicitor advocates.

The changes to the remuneration structure will allow barristers to claim for travelling and waiting time costs in addition to the standard fee for advocacy. Previously, only solicitors could do this.

The amendments, in the Legal Aid in Criminal and Care Proceedings (Costs) Regulations 1989 and effective from 1 October, follow a Bar Council campaign to encourage the Lord Chancellor's Department to end the discrimination.

Peter Birts QC, chair of the Bar's legal aid and fees committee, says: “The standard fees scheme introduced last year was significantly disadvantageous to barristers and in particular, to the Young Bar. I am pleased the Government, after strong representations from the Bar Council, has recognised the unfair competition and has changed the regulations.”

In a letter to heads of chambers, Birts says: “The Lord Chancellor's intention is to enable the maximum flexibility between solicitors and counsel to negotiate and agree the amounts payable, reflecting the position as between solicitors and solicitors' agents.”