Bar Council turns to Sir Sydney Kentridge QC to counter LSB’s “disturbingly expensive” cab rank rule paper

26 March 2013

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has today published a staunch defence of the cab rank rule. The paper, written at the Bar Council's request by Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, responds to criticisms made in a Legal Services Board (LSB) report on the future of the cab rank rule.

Sir Sydney, who provided the response pro bono, is staunchly critical of the LSB report, published earlier this year, in which Professors John Flood and Morten Hvvid concluded that they "could see no justification for the continuation of the cab rank rule as a rule in the modern, globalised legal services environment."

A Freedom of Information request revealed that the report cost the LSB, which is funded by a levy on the legal profession, £21,367.

Sir Sydney Kentridge QC concluded his response:

"The professors see only that breaches of the rule are difficult to detect and conclude that breaches must inevitably occur. They do not see the Bar as an honourable profession whose members generally obey the ethical rules of their profession, and who do not seek to evade them.  Indeed, throughout the Report one finds not merely hostility to the rule but hostility to the Bar and sneers at its ethical pretensions. One finds also far-reaching conclusions based on selective quotation, flimsy evidence or no evidence at all - very far from what one would expect from senior academics doing serious research."

Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:

"We are enormously grateful to Sir Sydney for drafting such a thorough and clear response to the LSB's report. The cab rank rule is something which is deeply embedded in the Bar's culture and values and plays a core role in defining our profession's instinctive commitment to access to justice.

"Sir Sydney is universally recognised one of the most esteemed members of this profession; there can be nobody who is more qualified to explain the standards and ethics upon which we conduct ourselves. He has provided a timely and powerful articulation of the fundamental importance of the cab rank rule to the Bar, and more importantly, to the public we serve. Most worryingly, he has laid bare the numerous errors and apparent prejudice throughout this disturbingly expensive report.

"The LSB says that this report does not necessarily reflect its views, but as the commissioning body, it must take a long hard look at its commissioning process and expenditure and consider whether this is really the best use of its funds or whether it is best left to a frontline regulator which has a much better understanding of how the profession works."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. For further information, please contact the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 or Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

2. Sir Sydney Kentridge QC's response to the LSB cab rank rule report can be found here.

3. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
  • Fair access to justice for all
  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and
  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.