Frequently asked questions
This page sets out some of the more frequently asked questions
put to the Bar Council's Professional Practice Committee concerning
the Code of Conduct and related professional matters.
If members of the Bar have particular questions about professional
conduct matters that they would like to see addressed on this web
page they should write to James Woolf at the Bar
Q1. Can I act as a Commissioner for
Q2. I have been approached by a Legal Advice
Centre to attend at the Centre to give advice to members of the
public. I will do this on a voluntary or part time basis. I am a
self-employed barrister. Can I do this?
Q3. I have a dispute with a
builder over work that he has carried out on my home. Is it
appropriate for me to write to him on Chambers' notepaper setting
out what I believe to be my legal rights?
Q4. My instructing solicitor
is unable to attend a conference with the lay client. Am I able to
meet the client without the solicitor being present?
Q5. I have recently acted in
a case where the client was unhappy with the outcome. He has sacked
his solicitors and frequently writes to me with questions about
potential grounds of appeal, or telephones to discuss the original
hearing. Am I able to engage in correspondence with the client in
Q6. I am a pupil in my first
six months and have been asked to take a noting brief. Am I allowed
to do so?
Q7. I am writing an article to be published in a
legal journal. Am I able to describe myself as a
Q8. We are reviewing our
advertising strategy for chambers. Are there any principles that we
should consider when advertising chambers'
Q9. I have been approached
by a prospective client who lives in Hong Kong. He does not have a
solicitor and wants to instruct me directly. Can I
Q10. In the course of a
conversation with opposing Counsel, I discovered information to
which I would not normally have been privy which could affect the
way I conduct my lay client's case. What should I do?
Q11. I am representing a
client in a criminal case and during the hearing the client has
absconded. The Judge has asked me to remain to assist the court.
What should I do?
Q12. I joined Chambers
recently and discover that, in addition to the payments that were
mentioned at the time I joined, I am also being asked to pay
substantial additional amounts to pay off debts owed by Chambers.
These existed at the time I applied and Chambers clearly knew of
them. Do I have to pay them?
Q13. I am instructed in a
residence and contact case to represent the father. In conference,
the father has told me that if he does not get custody of the child
he will make sure that no one else will. I am very concerned by
what he might do to the child. However, he has told me that I must
not mention what he said to anyone else. Am I able to breach client
confidentiality and report the matter to the proper
Q14. I am an employed
barrister working for a firm of solicitors. I have been invited to
become a partner. Am I able to do so?
Q15. I have been asked to be
a non-executive director of a company. Is this permitted under the
Code of Conduct?
Q16. I have a clash of cases
on the same day. Which one should I choose?
Q17. Can I be instructed as
leading counsel for 2 clients in separate cases where there is a
danger of a clash of cases? Both clients have consented to me
representing them and being absent for part of the case. I have
advised both clients that if the first client withdraws this
consent I would have to return the second case
Q18. I have been approached
to appear on a television/radio discussion programme to put forward
the legal position on a particular area of the law. Can I do
Q19. I have been instructed
to advise in a professional negligence action against a solicitor.
I do not know the solicitor but the firm of which is he is a member
instructs me occasionally. Should I accept the
Q20. I have been asked to
act in a case in which the opposing client is known to me from
student days. Can I accept?
Q21. I would like to
practise as a sole practitioner. What must I do?
Q22. May I set up Chambers
Q23. Can I set up Chambers
Q24. Can I advertise to let
people know about my new Chambers?
Q25. Yesterday, my client
instructed me that he wished to plead guilty to an offence. We went
carefully through all the defences available to him and he signed
instructions saying he wished to plead guilty. Today he has written
to the Judge indicating that he wishes to change his plea because
he was under pressure from others to plead guilty. Am I in
Q26. One of the clerks in
Chambers is having an affair with a member of Chambers. Does this
cause any professional conduct problems?
Q27. An opposing solicitor
has indicated that she would like to have a sexual relationship
with me. Are there any problems with me starting a relationship
Q28. I have been invited to
join a set of Chambers. On looking at the constitution, I see that
the notice period for leaving Chambers is substantially greater
than the normal three months. Is this proper?
Q29. I have given notice to Chambers and wish to
have my outstanding fees collected by my new Chambers. May I do
Q30. I recently left my
Chambers because the clerking was very poor. The Chambers is now
asking me to pay sums in respect of notice. I do not think I should
pay. What is my position?
Q31. I acted for the wife in
a family matter. During counsel to counsel discussions, I told
opposing counsel that I had advised against a particular
application being made. My instructing solicitors have now received
a letter from the husband's solicitors making a claim for wasted
costs in respect of the application on the basis that it was
against my advice. It is clear that opposing counsel has revealed
matters which I discussed with him in confidence. Is there anything
I can do about it?
Q32. My partner is also a
barrister and we are instructed on opposite sides of a case. Are we
able to appear against each other?
Q33. I have represented a
client in a matter. He is now taking the matter further as a
litigant-in-person and has asked to see my notebooks, citing the
provisions of the Data Protection Act. Am I required to let him see
Q34. A friend has asked me
for some legal advice. Am I able to help?
Q35. I am in litigation and
wish to represent myself. May I do so?
Q36. I have been instructed
in a case in which substantial amounts of material have been
disclosed. I am now instructed in a matter against the same
defendants in which some of the material disclosed is likely to
assist my new clients. Should I accept the second instructions?
Would it make any difference if I did not disclose the information
to the new clients?
Q37. Our clerks have been
asked by solicitors to issue proceedings in the High Court. All the
papers have been prepared by the solicitor and they will provide
the fee. It is simply more convenient for us to provide this
service. Can we do so?
Q38. In order to monitor
distribution of work and to ensure that members are informed about
Chambers' financial position and prospects , we propose to
circulate details of members' receipts to all members of Chambers.
Are we able to do so?
Q39. I have been
instructed on behalf of a liquidator in an on-going matter. I
am now sought to be instructed in a separate matter against the
same office-holder, who is acting in the second matter as an
appointed receiver. Am I permitted to take the second
Q40. I am about to hold a
conference with a client. The client has asked if they can bring
along a friend. From the papers it appears that the friend has been
advising the client and that the advice has not been helpful. Can I
refuse to allow the friend to attend the conference?
Q41. My client wishes to
tape record a conference. Can I refuse this request?
Q42. I am prosecuting a
drugs case in magistrates' court. During the course of the
prosecution case I realise that there is a gap in continuity which
might found a successful half time submission. My opponent does not
take the point. Do I have a duty to bring the point to his
attention or to the court's? Does it make any difference if the
defendant is unrepresented or if the trial takes place in the Crown
Q43. A solicitor for a
defendant has spoken briefly to me about his client's case. The
prosecution subsequently sought to brief me and sent me the papers
. I have not had the opportunity to read the papers. Now the
defence solicitor is seeking to brief me. Which set of instructions
should I take?
Q44. I am instructed in a
contested childcare case on behalf of the mother. At a hearing
outside court, the father attacked my client's ex-husband. I was
present. The judge heard about this and has ordered a contempt
hearing against the father. He has ordered that I supply a witness
statement. Can I continue with the original case?
Q45. An instructing
solicitor has told me that a clerk from a rival set has told him
that the firm should cease to instruct me because I am slow in
completing work. The clerk recommended that the solicitor should go
instead to the rival set because they turn work around much more
quickly. I do not believe that this is true. What can I
Q46. I have been instructed
in an Employment Tribunal case. The solicitor has a contingency
(not conditional) fee agreement with the client and would like me
to take half of any eventual fee. Can I agree to this?
Q47. One of the rising stars
of my set has been approached by a member of a larger set
suggesting that she might be happier with them. Surely this is not
Q48. I have been instructed
to appear in a part-heard case in which my lay client has
previously been representing himself. May I do so?
Q49. My instructing
solicitors have passed to me a document which they have received
anonymously. It appears to belong to the other side and to be
a) What should
b) What should I do if I have already read the document before
realising that there was a problem and if it is very helpful to my
c) What if the case begins tomorrow and it will be impossible for
anybody else to prepare in time.
Q50. A solicitor who is a
friend of mine sits on the board of a small company. He would like
to use chambers for pro bono advice on contracts and other
arrangements. We are a criminal set without much experience in this
area. He thought that some of our pupils might be competent to do
Q51. My chambers would like
to give a gift of a food hamper to one of our regular instructing
solicitors. Is this permissible?
Q52. A grateful client is
offering me a present. Can I accept it?
Q53. My chambers undertake a
considerable amount of Public Access work. A consequence has been
increased workload for many of the clerks in terms of offering
general guidance to lay clients on matters such as where to go to
issue court documents. Would it be acceptable to include a note in
the client care letter to the effect that a small charge will be
made for administration?
Q54. My lay client has
absconded prior to the PCMH and provided no instructions beyond
comments in a police interview. My instructing solicitors have
withdrawn and I believe that the Bar Council's current guidance
allows me to withdraw too. However, the trial judge has referred to
the case of Jones 2002. UK HL 5 in which the Lord Chief Justice
emphasised that whilst not obliged to continue to act in these
circumstances, counsel might feel an obligation to remain if only
to assist the court. In view of this, can I withdraw from the
Q55. A friend has asked me
to appear at an Employment Tribunal hearing on her behalf. May I do
so without instructions from a professional client? I will not be
charging a fee and do not want my friend to go to the trouble and
expense of instructing a solicitor. If this is not possible may I
appear as a McKenzie friend?
Q56. Can a barrister act as
a Notary Public in the same way that he can act as a Commissioner
Q57. Does a barrister have a
lien over papers in the event of non-payment of fees?
Q58. My lay client and his
instructing solicitor have fallen out and my lay client is now
instructing another firm. He has not paid his previous solicitors.
I still possess a number of papers in the case forwarded to me by
the first solicitors. The second solicitors wish to instruct me. Am
I able to make use of the papers?
Q59. I am a witness in court
and I have been asked a question, which, to answer, would breach my
duty of confidentiality to my lay client. There has been no waiver.
What should I do?
Q60. My clerk has accepted a
brief for me to appear in court at a time when I am booked to be on
holiday. Can I return the brief?
Q61. May I be a director
of a company?
Q62. A barrister has left
chambers owing a substantial amount in rent and clerks' fees. Can
we hold back cheques that he has received in respect of fees until
he pays chambers what he owes?
Q63. Is Counsel permitted to
give an undertaking in the course of any court
Q64. What does the
expression "rights to conduct litigation" mean in
Q65. How can I check whether
my client is a bankrupt or subject to an Insolvency Voluntary