20 March 2018

What do I need to do?



The most important thing is to make sure that you respond to any request for information or comments from us within three weeks. Not responding, or missing the deadline, is in itself a breach of the Handbook and is something you could face disciplinary action for.  If you cannot respond within three weeks, contact the member of staff dealing with the complaint about you and explain the problem (their name and contact details will be on the letter you received).

When we first contact you to let you know about the complaint, we may ask you not to respond just yet. But if the complaint moves on to the investigation stage, we will ask for a response.

There is no set format for your response, but it is helpful to include:

  • a chronological summary of the main facts and issues relating to the complaint
  • your response to each aspect of the complaint,
  • the name and contact details of any witnesses who can help with the investigation, and
  • any supporting documents that you think are relevant to the complaint, such as opinions or copies of instructions.

It can be difficult to know how much detail to include in your response.  You should aim to cover all of the issues we have said we will be investigating. If you feel that other material may be helpful, but may not be directly relevant, you can list it in your response and we will ask you for it if we need it.

You must ensure that you do not breach any confidentiality or legal privilege in your response to the complaint. Your response will usually be sent to the complainant. If there is relevant information that you do not want the complainant to see, provide it on a separate sheet and clearly mark at the top that it is "confidential and not for disclosure". You should explain why you think it should not be shown to the complainant (for example, because they are on the other side in a case or you want to provide personal or medical information). Be aware that we will make the final decision as to whether the information will be disclosed to the person who made the complaint, but we will carefully consider your reasons for wanting to keep the information confidential. (If the complaint was made by one of your clients, our view is that they have waived their right to confidentiality to the extent that you can respond to their complaint). If you want to discuss the need to provide confidential documents as part of your response, please contact the member of our staff dealing with the complaint about you.

"I had a public access client who accused me of mishandling money related to a case. I thought what I had done was fine but I didn't deal with it very well, in that I didn't explain myself properly to the client. And then to make matters worse, I put my head in the sand and didn't respond on time to the Bar Standards Board about my side of the story. It ended up going to tribunal and I had to face two charges, one for the money and one for not responding. I ended up being suspended for three months and I'm not allowed to take on any public access clients for a year."

Get help


The Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund (BMIF) can give you advice about how to respond to a complaint and representation at a disciplinary hearing if it comes to that. You can get more information from their website or phone them on 020 7621 0405.

The London Common Law and Commercial Bar Association (LCLCBA) also provides advice to their members about how to deal with complaints. If you are a member, see their website for further details.

The Bar Council operates the Barristers' Complaints Advisory Service (BCAS). This is a list of barristers who have volunteered to provide advice and representation to barristers involved in a complaint. Although the majority of the barristers on this list provide their services free, some may charge and you should check the position with them when you first contact them. See the Bar Council website or speak to the member of our staff dealing with the complaint about you for more details. 


Pay fines


If you are fined by the Professional Conduct Committee or Tribunal, you must pay it by the due date. If you don't it is likely to be treated as professional misconduct and may lead to further disciplinary proceedings against you.


Attend the tribunal


If the complaint about you gets as far as a disciplinary tribunal it is very important that you either attend or send in written representations for the panel to consider. If you don't, the panel is unlikely to be able to fully assess your side of the story.




The information in these pages applies to barristers, and other people we regulate, in England and Wales.

The law that regulates barristers and lawyers is complicated. We have simplified things to give you an idea of how it applies to your situation. Please don't rely on these pages as a complete statement of the law.

The quotes and cases we refer to are not always real but show a typical situation. We hope they help you to understand the system better and think about what might happen to the complaint.