There are rules and regulations that barristers have to follow to make sure they are doing their job correctly and giving you the best service possible. This section will give you information on what you can expect a barrister to do for you and how you can expect them to act.

Click here to jump to information about what to expect from a barrister in a Youth Court.

The rules barristers must follow

The rules about how barristers must behave are contained in the BSB Handbook

The rules cover a wide range of things. These include the “Core Duties of barristers” which contain a list of the most important things that barristers should and should not do. The rules also cover how barristers should behave, what they are allowed to do in the course of their work, how they qualify to become a barrister, and how they will be disciplined if they break the rules.

Barristers' Core Duties

Barristers have ten Core Duties that they are required to follow when they are working for you These and other more detailed rules are contained in the BSB Handbook. We have summarised them here but barristers must refer to the full rules and guidance in the Handbook. They are:

To observe their duty to the court in the administration of justice

This means that a barrister:

  • must not mislead a court or a judge or waste a court’s time and may need to make sure the court has all the relevant information it needs
  • must not abuse their role as an advocate; and
  • they must ensure that their ability to act independently is not compromised.

A barrister's duty to the court is an important one, which can override other duties such as the duty to act in the best interests of each client. But it does not require them to breach the duty of confidentiality that they have to their client.

To act in the best interests of each client

A barrister who is working for you must always think about what is best for you and do their job in a way that reflects that. This does not mean that a barrister can lie on your behalf, or that they must do everything you tell them. Their duty to the court comes above even their duty to you as their client and barristers must act with independence, honesty and integrity. This means, for example, that they cannot do anything for you that would go against their duty to the court.

To act with honesty, and with integrity

The duty to act with honesty and with integrity includes not misleading or lying to anyone, not encouraging other people to mislead or be untruthful, and only accepting money and fees that they are legally allowed to. Barristers should also show integrity by upholding the professional standards expected of them.

To maintain their independence

To make sure barristers maintain their independence, they are not allowed to offer, promise or give gifts or referral fees to any client (or intermediary such as a solicitor), or to accept any money from a client or intermediary unless it is as payment for their professional work. They cannot work for you if there is, or they think there might be, a conflict of interest for them in doing so.

Not to behave in a way that is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in them or the barrister profession

Things that would be likely to diminish trust and confidence in the profession could include committing a crime, being dishonest, harassing others, offensive conduct towards other people, or abuse of their position as a barrister.

To keep the affairs of each client confidential

This means that barristers are not allowed to talk to other people about what you tell them without your consent.

To provide a competent standard of work and service to each client

A competent standard of work and service includes promoting a client's best interests, treating clients with courtesy and consideration, advising a client in terms that they can understand, avoiding unnecessary costs for a client, and reading a client's instructions promptly.

Not to discriminate unlawfully against any person

Barristers must not treat anyone less favourably or harass them or victimise them because of their race, colour, ethnicity or nationality, citizenship, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, relationship status, disability, age, religion, belief or pregnancy/maternity.

To be open and cooperative with regulators

This means that barristers have to do what is asked of them by us or the Legal Ombudsman and provide us with information we need about them.

To take reasonable steps to manage their practice...

... or carry out their role within their practice, competently and in such a way as to achieve compliance with their legal and regulatory obligations

This means that a barrister must run their practice in a way that follows the rules in the BSB Handbook.


If a barrister breaches any of these rules or Duties, they can be disciplined by us for professional misconduct. If you think a barrister has breached any of these duties, please see the What to do if something goes wrong page for more information on the steps you can take.

Knowing you have the right barrister for your case

Having the right barrister is not just about making sure they work in the right area of law. A good barrister will speak to you in a way you can understand and will make you feel that you can trust them. They will treat you with respect and courtesy, regardless of your background or circumstances. They will provide you with advice that is clear and accurate, and keep you informed as your case progresses. If you have a disability, they must make "reasonable adjustments" for you. This means doing what they can to make sure you are not disadvantaged because of your disability.

Barristers and vulnerable clients

The BSB Handbook includes a requirement for barristers to take special care to meet the needs of vulnerable clients.

There are many things that could make a client vulnerable, including:

  • age;
  • gender;
  • ethnicity;
  • disability;
  • sexual orientation;
  • low income; and
  • immigration/asylum status.

Barristers should be taking these things into consideration to make sure they are giving you the best service they can.

The BSB Handbook also offers guidance to barristers on how to act in the best interests of each client, provide a competent standard of work and maintain confidentiality. This guidance reminds barristers that they should remember their clients may not be familiar with legal proceedings and may find them difficult and stressful. Barristers should do what they reasonably can to ensure that you understand the process and what to expect from it and from them. Barristers should also try to avoid any unnecessary distress for you.

Client care letters - confirming your instructions to your barrister

Once it is agreed that you will be instructing a barrister, they must provide a "client care letter".

If you are using a solicitor, the barrister will send the letter to them, but if you are using a Public Access barrister (a barrister who has had extra training and can be hired directly by members of the public) they will send the letter directly to you.

This letter should set out what work they are going to do for you, when it will be done, how you will be charged for the work, and how you can complain if you are unhappy with the service they provide. This letter could be written by the barrister themselves or by someone else at their chambers. If you instruct the same barrister for some new or different work, they must send you another letter with information about that work.

An example of what a Public Access "client care letter" should look like, and the information it should have in it, can be found on the Code Guidance page for barristers.

When barristers are allowed to stop working for you

This does not happen very often, but in some circumstances a barrister may stop work on your behalf even if they have already agreed to work for you.

The barrister can stop working for you - this is called “returning instructions” – in the following situations:

  • if they have too much other work on or do not have the time to be able to do your work to a high standard;
  • if they have an interest in the case which might conflict with yours;
  • if the barrister does not have the experience to handle the work;
  • if the barrister does not have the right insurance to cover the work; or
  • if your solicitor has not offered a proper fee when instructing the barrister on your behalf.

A barrister can also return instructions if:

  • you have legal aid and they find out you obtained this by lying;
  • the barrister is required to tell the court something and you will not allow it;
  • the barrister's conduct is called into question;
  • the court date is made for a day the barrister cannot attend;
  • illness, injury, pregnancy, childbirth or bereavement means that the barrister cannot do what is required;
  • you do not pay the barrister when you have agreed to, and they have warned you that if you do not pay they will stop working for you; or
  • you agree.

If a barrister is thinking about stopping working for you, they must try to ensure that you are not disadvantaged because you do not have time to find another barrister.

What to expect from a barrister in the Youth Court

Our video explains what young people, their guardians, and other professionals should expect from barristers in the Youth Court.

Watch the video here.

As well as following the Core Duties described above and the other rules contained within the BSB Handbook, barristers who work in the Youth Court have to be able to demonstrate that they have the special competences required to work with young people. They must also register with us to do this type of work.

If you would like to read more about the special competences that barristers need before they can work in the Youth Court, you may find our Youth Proceedings Competence and Guidance helpful.