21 May 2018

Consultation on the Cab Rank Rule: Standard Contractual Terms and the List of Defaulting Solicitors

In March 2015 the Bar Standards Board (BSB) sought views on a number of options for amending the cab rank rule. The rule states that if a self-employed barrister receives instructions from a professional client such as a solicitor, and the instructions are appropriate taking into account the experience, seniority and/or field of practice of the barrister, they must accept the instructions.

In order to ensure that barristers are not exposed to unfair or unreasonable commercial arrangements as a result of this obligation, the BSB Handbook provides that the cab rank rule applies only if instructions are on the basis of either standard terms published on the Bar Council's website, or the barrister's own published terms. The barrister is also entitled (but not obliged) to refuse instructions where a solicitor appears on the List of Defaulting Solicitors, which is maintained by the Bar Council.

In the consultation paper, the BSB considered whether it was necessary to retain a reference to the standard contractual terms within the list of exemptions to the cab rank rule. The BSB sought views on a number of options for amending the rule. These included:

  • Retaining the status quo;
  • Retaining the standard terms as a backstop, but giving greater flexibility to the barrister to propose reasonable terms for the specific instructions in question;
  • Removing the standard terms, but requiring the barrister either to adopt their own standard terms or propose reasonable terms for the specific instructions in question; and
  • Removing the standard terms, but requiring the barrister to accept any reasonable terms offered by a solicitor or other professional client.

The BSB also sought views on whether the reference the List of Defaulting Solicitors within the list of exemptions to the cab rank rule might be replaced with an exemption where it is reasonable for the barrister to conclude that the professional client represents an unacceptable credit risk.

The consultation closed on 19 June 2015. We received six responses to the consultation, which you can read on the right hand side of the page.