Barristers to be allowed to conduct own litigation

The Bar Standards Board has announced this week that numerous practising restrictions will soon be lifted when their new BSB Handbook comes into effect in January 2014. Underpinning the new Handbook will be new approaches to both enforcement and supervision.

The Legal Services Board approved the new Bar Standards Board (BSB) Code of Conduct for barristers and it will form part II of the new BSB Handbook, bringing together all the BSB's regulations into one publication.

One of the biggest changes is that barristers will be able to conduct their own litigation. This will mean that public access clients will no longer either have to act as a self-representing litigant, or to instruct a solicitor. Barristers will be able to apply for an extension to their practising certificate.

The Chair of the Bar Standards Board, Baroness Ruth Deech, said: "Superfluous rules have been stripped away and others modernised. The Handbook's approach is less prescriptive, with more focus and guidance on what the outcome of a rule should be, rather than attempting to define how a barrister should act in every situation. As well as offering greater clarity there are also new measures that will empower barristers to change their business models in line with consumer need."

Baroness Deech continued: "Through developing a risk-based approach to supervision we will be better placed to work with the profession to prevent non-compliance from materialising in the first place or to avoid a recurrence of less serious non-compliance. This will help us to ensure that enforcement action is reserved for the most serious cases of non-compliance which could have considerable consequences for the client and the public interest."

Other changes include:

Associations with others. Previous rules preventing self-employed barristers from sharing premises and forming associations with non-barristers have been removed, allowing barristers to pool together risks and resources.

Reporting serious misconduct by others. Regulated persons will be required to self-report and report others in relation to "serious misconduct".

Unregistered barristers. The Core Duties - the core elements of professional conduct - will apply to all barristers, including unregistered barristers when they are providing legal services.

A new electronic version of the Handbook will be available to download which will be compatible with smart phones and tablets; it boasts an improved search and navigation function to guide barristers through the Handbook and can be accessed offline via mobile devices once downloaded. The BSB says that a series of roadshows, podcasts and webinars will also be available from September 2013.

Will this have a significant impact on solicitors and should they be worried by competition from barristers?

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