On this page, we describe:
- Reporting a concern
- Before you report a concern
- How to report a concern
- What to think about before you report a concern to us
- Contacting us about the concern you reported
It is our job to regulate barristers, their vocational and work-based training organisations, and the specialised businesses that we authorise to provide legal services to make sure that they maintain high standards of professional behaviour. To help us to do this, we need to know about any concerns you may have.
There are two types of barrister. “Practising” barristers hold valid practising certificates that allow them to provide legal services. “Unregistered” barristers do not hold practising certificates.
Both types of barrister have been “Called to the Bar” which means they have a Law degree and have done some vocational training but unregistered barristers may never have become fully qualified by completing the work-based component of Bar training known as “pupillage”, or their training may not be fully up to date. In other cases, an unregistered barrister may be fully trained and entitled to have a practising certificate but do not currently have one. That is why only practising barristers who have a practising certificate are allowed to call themselves barristers if they are providing legal services
While the Barristers’ Register shows details of all barristers who are authorised to practise currently, it might be that a barrister you are concerned about stopped practising after the date when the conduct you are concerned about occurred. If this has happened, their name will not appear on the Barristers’ Register unless they already have a published disciplinary finding.
If you have concerns about the conduct of a barrister (provided they do not work for you), or about a business or organisation we regulate, or if you have concerns about any other aspect of our regulation, you can let us know by making a report to us. We will then consider whether we need to take any action to address the concern. We may not always feel it is right for us to take action, but any information we receive will help us to ensure that our regulation remains effective.
If you have a concern about a barrister who is, or who was, representing you, you need to contact the Legal Ombudsman, and not us. The Legal Ombudsman would normally expect you to raise your concerns with the barrister directly first. If you are not happy with their response, you usually need to complain to the Legal Ombudsman within six months.
You can find more information about complaining about your barrister by going to the Legal Ombudsman website.
The Legal Ombudsman can only look at complaints about the service your barrister has given you. If the Legal Ombudsman thinks your complaint to them includes concerns about the conduct of the barrister or other person we regulate, then the Legal Ombudsman will refer the concerns to us so that we can consider if we need to take action. You do not need to do anything to make this happen. However, we can only investigate where a barrister may have broken the rules or their professional duties set out in the BSB Handbook. This would include things like acting dishonestly, taking on work they are not qualified for, bullying, or being racist or homophobic.
The Legal Ombudsman has worked to update their Scheme Rules, and they have developed a one-page consumer leaflet outlining how and when they can help. This is aimed at ensuring that consumers contact them at the right time – after a service provider has had a chance to address their complaint. It is intended as a simple way for providers to help convey the key information about the Legal Ombudsman they are required to in their client care communication.
You can tell us if you have concerns about a barrister who is not, or has not, worked for you, or about the place they work from (such as their chambers), or a legal services business which we regulate.
If you were given advice or representation by a barrister who was unregistered (which means they do not have a current practising certificate) you can complain directly to us, as the Legal Ombudsman cannot deal with complaints about unregistered barristers. This might be someone that represented you at an employment or benefits tribunal. Unregistered barristers are not allowed to call themselves barristers when giving you legal help and if they do this it is a breach of the BSB Handbook.
We cannot investigate things like whether you got good value, and we cannot order them to pay compensation, but we can look at whether they have broken the rules for unregistered barristers.
We can also deal with concerns about chambers or other organisations that deliver the vocational or work-based portion of training to be a barrister (pupillage). These are known as Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs).
You can read more about the role of AETOs in delivering the various components of Bar training in our overview of how to become a barrister.
We do not deal with concerns about universities or colleges which provide Law degrees. If you have a concern about such an organisation, you need to follow the organisation’s internal complaints process. If you are unhappy with the outcome of that process, you may be able to take it up with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator is an independent body that reviews complaints made by students about higher education providers in England and Wales.
You can tell us anything that concerns you about an individual or organisation that we regulate (unless it is about a barrister who has worked for you) or about any other issues relating to our regulation. We will assess what you tell us and decide what action to take. We assess every concern to see how big a risk it poses and focus our action on concerns that pose a significant risk.
We are keen to hear your concerns but it is important to understand that:
- we cannot change the progress or outcome of any legal case you are involved in or stop someone from acting for the other side
- we cannot prevent a barrister, or other person we regulate, from using evidence or an argument you disagree with.
- we cannot make the barrister, or other person we regulate, apologise to you or pay you compensation.
- While we take all reports seriously, we can only refer concerns for formal investigation where we have enough information to allow us to be satisfied that a breach of the professional obligations may have happened.
If you have any questions about reporting a concern to us please do contact us.
The easiest way to report something to us is to use our Online Reporting Form. Using the form helps to ensure that we get all the information we need to deal with the issue.
We offer reasonable adjustments for those who have a disability. If you require any adjustments, please contact us so we can discuss how best to take your report.
The Online Reporting Form asks for basic information along with more specific questions about the concerns that you wish to tell us about.
When you complete the form, you should set out the facts as clearly as possible. You do not need to use formal or legal language. And you do not need to refer to the BSB Handbook. The important thing here is that we have enough information to understand what your concern is.
It is also important that we have all the relevant information and documents to assess your concern. We will ask you to upload any supporting documents that you think we need to see (such as emails or letters). Unless you think we need it, you do not need to upload all the documents related to any case you were involved in. The key documents that support your concerns will normally be enough. If we think we need more information, we will ask you for it.
We recommend that you have all the information to support your concern ready before you start completing the Online Reporting Form, although you can save the form at any point and come back to it when it suits you.
When a concern is reported to us, it is assessed by the Contact and Assessment Team to decide what action, if any, is needed. We make a number of initial checks to ensure that the concern relates to someone or something we regulate. We also make sure that we properly understand your concerns. In most cases we will then carry out a risk assessment which looks at whether the concern has, or could have, harmed people or their legal rights, and the public confidence in the profession and ourselves as its regulator. This policy sets out our process for the initial assessment of reports.
If the Contact and Assessment Team decide action is needed, they will pass your concern on to the correct department to deal with it. The Contact and Assessment Team also monitor the types of concerns we receive so we are aware of new problems and so we can deal with issues consistently.
There are some issues that we are not normally able to act on. For example, we do not normally get involved in personal disputes that you have with a barrister unless the barrister’s behaviour might have broken the rules in the BSB Handbook.
After assessing your concern and the information that you provide, the action we take could include:
- Giving the barrister informal advice in order to reduce the risk of the problem happening again.
- Informing our Supervision Team of your concerns. They could then ask that a barrister, or an organisation, do something to improve the situation or to prevent the problem happening again.
- Referring the concern to our Investigation and Enforcement Team where there is potential breach of our Handbook rules for a formal investigation to be carried out to decide if enforcement action should be taken. There are a number of possible outcomes of an investigation. See how we make enforcement decisions to find out more about enforcement decisions.
- Deciding not to take any action. However, we will keep the information you have given us to inform our work in the future.
We will normally disclose the contents of reports we receive about barristers to the barrister concerned. However, if you have good reasons for wishing to keep the report confidential, we will try to respect any such request. You can find out more about how we use your information and what we keep, on the information section of our website.
We will try to assess the concern you reported to us within about eight weeks. If we need further information from you to assess the issue, we will contact you. However, if you would like to contact us about a concern you have already reported, you can contact the Assessment Officer dealing with your report. If you do not know the name of the Assessment Officer, you can call us on 020 7611 1444 or email us on [email protected]
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