The Legal Services Board has today approved the removal of two rules around public access to barristers and training.
The changes, proposed by the Bar Standards Board, will allow barristers to take instructions from clients who may be eligible for public funding but have decided not to take up this option. The changes will allows barristers to expand the range of work they offer and meet growing demands from clients.
By allowing barristers of less than three years' standing to take on public access cases the changes will allow members of the public to avail of legal expertise at a more affordable cost.
The prohibition on accepting cases that may be eligible for legal aid will be removed from 1 April 2013. Revised guidance for barristers and clients, together with model client care letters, will be published on the BSB's website later this month.
The prohibition on barristers of less than three years' standing will be removed with the introduction of a new training regime, which is due to be in place by autumn 2013. More experienced barristers who have already completed the existing training will have 24 months to either undertake additional training, required by the BSB, or apply for a waiver. In the meantime, barristers currently undertaking public access work can continue to do so.
Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, welcomed the changes: "We are very pleased to see these rule changes, which will make the Bar's high quality and cost-effective services more accessible than ever before. It creates a level playing field for clients who are eligible for legal aid but wish to instruct a barrister privately and allows more flexibility for junior barristers as they start to build a practice."
The LSB also confirmed the BSB's application to remove rules prohibiting barristers from expressing a personal opinion in the media on cases in which they are involved. These rules will be replaced, with immediate effect, by guidance that identifies the factors and risks which barristers should consider when making a professional judgement on whether or not to make such comments.