We brought new transparency rules into force as of 1 July 2019, with an implementation period until January 2020. This follows the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA's) recommendation in December 2016 that the legal regulators deliver a step change in transparency standards to help consumers understand the price and service they will receive, what redress is available and the regulatory status of their provider.
There are mandatory rules on price, service and redress transparency for all self-employed barristers, chambers and BSB entities, who must comply by providing information about price, service and redress on all their websites (this includes any individual websites which barristers operate separately to their chambers' website). If you do not have a website, you must comply by ensuring the required information is readily available in alternative format. This must be provided to consumers on request.
The mandatory rules require you to:
- state that professional, licensed access and/or lay clients (as appropriate) may contact an individual barrister, chambers or BSB entity to obtain a quotation for legal services;
- provide contact details;
- state an individual barrister's, chambers' or BSB entity's most commonly used pricing models for legal services, such as fixed fee or hourly rate;
- state the areas of practice in which an individual barrister, chambers or BSB entity most commonly provides legal services;
- state and provide a description of the barrister's, chambers' or BSB entity's most commonly provided legal services;
- provide information about the factors which might influence the timescales of the barrister's, chambers' or BSB entity's most commonly provided legal services;
- display the appropriate "regulated by the Bar Standards Board "text on the homepage: for sole practitioners, "regulated by the Bar Standards Board", for chambers, "barristers regulated by the Bar Standards Board" and for BSB entities, "authorised and regulated by the Bar Standards Board";
- display information about the complaints procedure, any right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), how to complain to the LeO, and any time limits for making a complaint;
- link to the decision data on the LeO's website; and
- link to the Barristers' Register page on our website.
There are also additional transparency rules for those undertaking Public Access work. This includes self-employed barristers undertaking Public Access work, and BSB entities supplying legal services directly to the public. If any barristers practising from a chambers are undertaking Public Access work, or if a BSB entity is supplying legal services directly to the public, websites must link to (or you must provide in alternative format) the Public Access Guidance for Lay Clients on the BSB's website. If you provide the Public Access services listed in the current version of the BSB's price transparency policy statement then, in certain circumstances, you must also comply with additional transparency rules in relation to those services. The relevant Public Access services are:
- Employment Tribunal cases (advice and representation for employers and employees);
- Financial disputes arising out of divorce;
- Immigration appeals (First-tier Tribunal);
- Inheritance Act advices;
- Licensing applications in relation to business premises;
- Personal injury claims;
- Summary only motoring offences (advice and representation for defendants); and
- Winding-up petitions.
If you provide these Public Access services then, in certain circumstances set out in the policy statement, the rules require you to:
- state pricing model(s), such as fixed fee or hourly rate;
- state indicative fees and the circumstances in which they may vary;
- state whether fees include VAT (where applicable);
- state likely additional costs, what they cover and either the cost or, if this can only be estimated, the typical range of costs; and
- state and provide a description of the relevant Public Access services, including a concise statement of the key stages and an indicative timescale for the key stages.
A sole practitioner will need to provide price information in relation to themselves as an individual barrister; chambers will need to provide price information either in relation to (1) individual barristers, or (2) barristers in chambers in the form of ranges or average fees; and a BSB entity will need to provide price information in relation to the entity.
For further information and help complying with the new transparency rules, please refer to the Transparency Standards Guidance. This aims to support you in complying with the mandatory rules. It includes resources to help such as checklists, examples of how to provide information in alternative format and, for the Public Access services listed in the current version of our price transparency policy statement, examples of the required transparency.
The Transparency Standards Guidance also encourages you to go beyond the mandatory rules and includes additional best practice on transparency to help you to do that.
While you are required to comply with the new transparency rules from 1 July 2019, there will be an implementation period until January 2020, during which time we are committed to working constructively with the profession as you make the necessary changes. We then expect all self-employed barristers, chambers and BSB entities to be fully compliant with the rules by January 2020. Following the end of the implementation period, spot-checks will take place. Where issues are identified we will seek to address them with the barrister, chambers or BSB entity concerned before resorting to enforcement action, which will be reserved for persistent non-compliance or non-cooperation.