What should you expect from your barrister?

Anyone using a barrister for the first time may well be thinking ‘So just what can I expect my barrister to do for me, what can they do and what can’t they do’?

The basic rule is that they have to do their best for their clients without breaking any rules or acting in any way that is deemed to be improper. This is all laid down in detail in the BSBHandbook, but to help, here is a summary of the rules in this vital area of law.

There are many rules in place here, these include the ‘core duties of barristers’, as well as how they must behave, how they qualify and how they can be disciplined.

The Core Duties of a Barrister

The most basic rule is that they have a duty to the court to administer justice in the correct manner.

This means that they:-

  • Cannot mislead a court or judge or waste the court’s time.
  • Must ensure that the court has all the necessary information pertaining to the case
  • Do not abuse their role as an advocate
  • Must be able to act independently

This duty to the court can mean that they cannot in all cases represent their client in the manner that the latter may wish, but it does not mean that they have to breach the important duty of confidentiality to any client.

They must always act in a manner that is beneficial to their client, but that does not cover lying on their behalf, or that they must carry out all the actions that are requested.

In all cases they have to act with honesty and integrity, which means not lying or misleading any party. They also cannot encourage others to mislead anyone or to be untruthful.

There cannot be any conflict of interest when they undertake to represent your case.

Barristers also cannot be seen to commit any crime, to be dishonest, to harass others or act in any offensive manner to others. They also have to keep the affairs of any clients totally confidential.

They must promote all their client’s best interests, treating them with civility and consideration, giving advice in language they can comprehend, minimising excessive costs, and interpreting any instructions in short order immediately.

Barristers cannot discriminate anyone in an unlawful way.

Regardless of someone’s colour, colour, ethnicity, country, citizenship, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, relationship status, disability, age, religion, belief, or pregnancy/maternity, barristers are not permitted to treat them less favourably, harass them, or victimise them.

To be totally open with regulators

Basically this means that barristers have to follow the instructions of the Legal Ombudsman.

They must also take steps to manage their barristers practice / carry out their duties in a competent manner in line with their legal and regulatory obligations.

Barristers must also treat any vulnerable clients in the correct manner.

There are many ways that could make a client vulnerable, these including:  their age;  gender;  ethnicity;  type of  disability;  sexual orientation;  income level; and their immigration or asylum status.

In all cases barristers must take these things into consideration and make sure they are giving their clients the best possible service.

You can find advice in the BSB Handbook as to how barristers must operate in the best interests of each client, to deliver work of a high calibre, and to protect client confidentiality.

This advice also serves as a reminder to barristers that they should keep in mind the possibility that their clients may be unfamiliar with legal proceedings and may find them challenging and unpleasant. Barristers should make every effort to ensure that their clients are aware of the legal process and what to anticipate from it as well as from them.

In all cases, barristers should confirm your instructions in a client care letter.

The letter will be sent to you directly if you are working with a Public Access barrister, (a lawyer who has undergone further training and can be engaged directly by members of the public). In this letter, they should outline the job they will perform for you, when it will be completed, how you will be charged, and how to file a complaint if you are dissatisfied with the service they offer. The barrister or another person working in their chambers could write this letter.

 You should also remember that a barrister can in some circumstances cease working with you. To find out more about this or any other issues regarding instructing a barrister, please see https://www.thomasmore.co.uk

Sarah Evans