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.
What rules must a barrister follow?
What are the duties and obligations of a
How do I know I have the right barrister for my
What obligations do barristers have towards
What can you expect your barrister to do?
Can a barrister stop acting for me once
they have accepted my instructions?
The rules about how barristers must behave and work are
contained in the BSB Handbook. They cover a wide range of things
including the Core Duties of barristers (the most important things
they should do), how they should conduct themselves, 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
There is also guidance in the BSB Handbook that is published to
help barristers and the public understand it. Some of this might be
useful for you, including the guidance on public access for members
of the public (lay clients). The guidance can be found
on our website.
Barristers have ten Core Duties that they are required to follow
at all times. These are contained in
the BSB Handbook. They are:
1. To observe their duty to the court
in the administration of justice
- This is the most
important duty of a barrister in that it overrides all of the
others. It means that a barrister must not mislead or lie to the
court, must not abuse their role, must not waste the court's time
and must try to make sure that the court has all the relevant
information it needs. A barrister's duty to the court does not
require them to breach the duty of confidentiality that they have
to their client (see Core Duty 6 below).
2. To act in the best interests of each
- A barrister that is
working for you must always be thinking about what is best for you,
and do his 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. This means that they cannot do anything for
you that would go against their duty to the court.
3. To act with honesty and
- The duty to act with
honesty and integrity includes not misleading or lying to anyone,
not encouraging other people to mislead or be untruthful, not
paying witnesses for their help, and only accepting money and fees
that they are legally allowed to.
4. To maintain their
- To make sure
barristers maintain their independence, they are not allowed to
offer, promise or give gifts or referral fees to any client, or to
accept any money from a client unless it is as payment for their
5. To not 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.
6. To keep the affairs of each client
- This means that
barristers are not allowed to talk to other people about what you
7. 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.
8. To not discriminate unlawfully
against any person
- Barristers must not
treat anyone differently because of their race, colour, ethnicity
or nationality, citizenship, sex, gender reassignment, sexual
orientation, relationship status, disability, age, religion, belief
9. To be open and cooperative with
- This means that
barristers have to do what is asked of them by us, and provide us
with information we need about them.
10. 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 duties they can be
disciplined by us for professional misconduct. If you think a
barrister working for you has breached any of these duties, please
see the"What happens if something goes wrong?"section for more
information on the steps you can take.
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.
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,
Having one or more of these characteristics will not necessarily
make you vulnerable, but barristers should be taking all of these
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
them. Barristers should also try to avoid any unnecessary distress
for you. This is particularly important where their clients are
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 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 by, 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 one of the clerks 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 our website.
A barrister's clerk works in their chambers. He or she deals
with the administration and organises the workload of the
barristers working at the chambers.
Yes, in some circumstances a barrister may stop acting for you.
If any of the situations described in the section "When might
a barrister refuse instructions?" above arises after the
barrister has accepted your instructions, they can then stop acting
for you - this is called returning instructions. They can also
return instructions if:
If none of the above reasons apply a barrister cannot return
your instructions unless you consent.
If a barrister is thinking about returning your instructions,
they must try to ensure that you are not disadvantaged because you
do not have time to find another barrister.