All barristers in private practice should have to publish their fees, the profession’s regulator is to recommend in a move that could finally bury another tradition at the Bar.
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) confirmed that it would consult over a plan to force all barristers taking referred work to publish their fees to lay clients.
Existing recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) called for fee transparency to be imposed only on those barristers who are authorised to take instructions directly from the public. However, at a board meeting last week the BSB decided to extend the requirement to all private practice barristers.
The proposal is likely to set traditionalist barristers at odds with their regulator. Historically, individual barristers have demurred from discussing their fee rates, even with professional clients such as solicitors. Instead they have left that task to their clerks.
However, the competition watchdog is keen to sweep away what it views as arcane professional traditions that confuse lay clients.
A BSB spokesman told The Brief: “There must be a balance between improving consumer understanding and genuinely promoting competition, on the one hand, and not overburdening barristers and chambers or producing information overload for clients on the other.”
The board said that it would be “open-minded about the best way forward”.
The spokesman said that the regulator wanted to hear from consumers and the Bar during its consultation. “Our research has helped us identify good practice with regard to transparency already being undertaken by some barristers’ chambers. We want to build upon this in order to address the CMA’s recommendations more widely across the Bar,” he said.