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Barristers take the plunge into partnership

20 November 2009

Barristers will be able to join LDPs as partners and set up barrister-only partnerships, the Bar Standards Board has decided.

However the BSB is discouraging barrister partners from becoming shareholders until guidelines are drawn up to avoid conflicts of interest.

Well over 100 LDPs, employing more than 75 non-lawyer partners, have been created since they were permitted on 31 March this year.

Baroness Deech, chair of the BSB, said the changes were a “shot of adrenalin” for struggling barristers rather than a free for all.

The BSB is yet to decide whether barristers should be able to participate in externally-owned ABSs, or those with more than 25 per cent non-lawyer partners.

All LDPs containing non-lawyers will be regulated as alternative business structures once the ABS regime comes into force. This is expected to happen in the second half of 2011.

Barristers wanting to form barrister-only partnerships will have to wait for the results of a consultation.

“In relation to barrister-only practices, we can see real benefits in such entities being able to better share risk,” Baroness Deech said. “For example, such entities may be able to offer greater access to justice through a willingness to operate conditional fee agreements where individual practitioners feel unable to bear the risk of doing so.

“In deciding to apply the cab-rank rule to advocates in barrister-only entities and to seek to apply that rule to all advocates, the Board wishes to preserve a unique attribute of the Bar, in the public interest, one the Lord Chief Justice has described as ‘essential to the administration of justice’.”

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