Ethical Enquiries Service
Before taking advantage of the Ethical Enquiries
Service, please see the
Important Information and Disclaimer page which
sets out the terms on which this service is provided.
The scope, limitations and benefits of the service are
also set out in the tabs below.
Assistance provided through this service is not
"guidance" for the purposes of the BSB Handbook I6.4.
The Ethical Enquiries Service: 020 7611
1307 (09:15-17:15 Monday-Friday)
The Bar Council provides an Ethical Enquiries Service for the
benefit and assistance of barristers (and, where appropriate, their
clerks and other staff connected with barristers' professional
practices) to assist them to identify, interpret and comply with
their professional obligations under the BSB Handbook.
This service is overseen by the Bar Council's Ethics Committee
("EC") and is not provided by the BSB; neither
the BSB, Legal Ombudsman nor a Disciplinary Tribunal will be bound
by any views expressed in response to enquiries.
The regulatory and representative functions of the Bar Council have been split.
The Bar Standards Board ("BSB") now exercises the regulatory functions of the Bar Council, and it does so independently of the Bar Council. In particular, the BSB is responsible both for formulating the BSB Handbook (through its Standards Committee) and for dealing with conduct complaints (through its Professional Conduct Committee). Service complaints are dealt with by the Legal Ombudsman.
The Ethical Enquiries Service
The Bar Council provides an Ethical Enquiries Service for the benefit and assistance of barristers (and, where appropriate, their clerks and other staff connected with barristers’ professional practices) to assist them to identify, interpret and comply with their professional obligations under the BSB Handbook. This service does not extend to giving legal advice.
The service is overseen by the Bar Council’s Ethics Committee and is not provided by the BSB. Neither the BSB, nor the Legal Ombudsman nor a Disciplinary Tribunal will be bound by any views expressed in response to enquiries.
The Bar Council provides oral advice and publishes documents on its website which are intended to assist barristers on matters of conduct and ethics in particular types of situation. These do not comprise “guidance” for the purposes of the Handbook I6.4. Neither the Bar Standards Board nor a disciplinary tribunal nor the Legal Ombudsman is bound by any views expressed in such documents.
If you wish to be able to refer to any oral response to an ethical enquiry then the onus is on you to take a note of that response and to have that note confirmed by the person on the Ethical Enquiries Service who gave it.
If a response is given to you in writing, then the Bar Council will retain a copy of that response, but it may not retain any record of an oral response.
If you wish to refer to an oral or written response, or to any advice given in or in relation to it, then the identity of the person who provided it may not be disclosed without the prior consent of that person or the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, except in the following situation: you may disclose their identity when responding to a complaint made to the Bar Standards Board or the Legal Ombudsman.
Responses to enquiries are given in good faith (as is any advice given in or in relation to such responses), based on the information supplied by you, but neither the Bar Council nor any individual responsible for or involved in responding to any enquiry or giving any advice accepts any responsibility or liability for any action taken in reliance on it, and it does not consist of – nor can it be relied on as giving – legal advice.
Barristers are reminded that they are at all times responsible personally for their professional conduct, ethics and decisions. Whilst the Bar Council aims to guide and assist, you must reach your own conclusion on what your professional obligations and ethics require of you in any particular situation.
In the event of a complaint, however, you may find it easier to explain your actions if you have consulted relevant documents published by the Bar Council and/or contacted the Ethical Enquiries Service, and if you can show how, in deciding what course of action to take, you have taken into account the content of those documents and any views or advice received. In particular, the BSB or Legal Ombudsman may regard it as relevant in deciding what, if any, action to take against you in the event of a complaint; and either the BSB, the Legal Ombudsman or a disciplinary tribunal may regard it as relevant to whether you have breached your professional obligations, and may take it into account in mitigation of any penalty or other consequences in.