BPTC/BVC - Professional conduct

In 1894 the Bar Council was established to provide regulation, representation and advice to Barristers. It comprises an elected body of 115 persons and committees undertake its work. It is proud of its independence and expertise.

Prior to 1981 the Bar Council only provided guidance on practice and conduct matters. In 1981, however, the first edition of the Code of Conduct was published as a 70-page document. The latest Code as its 8th Edition was published on October 31st 2004 and is now in excess of 369 pages.

The Code is based on the concept of an independent and self-employed bar that the courts can rely on. It is made up of 8 parts: The Code itself, Annexes and Guidances. It is now regulated and published by the Bar Standards Board and can be found at www.barstandardsboard.org.uk . The code is important due to the fact that when dealing with clients a conflict of interest can arise and the lay client's interests must be paramount. In addition, as officers of the court, barristers must not knowingly mislead it. The code and the requirement of adherence to professional ethics seek to prevent this and provide protection for both the practitioner and the interests of the client. More recently barristers are now also required to have regard to the Equality and Diversity Code, which prohibits discrimination and promotes best practice in relation to such things as tenancy or pupillage.

The Code of Conduct and its accompanying guidance covers all aspects of a barristers day-to-day life, work and conduct. Such matters as Practice requirements, fundamental principles and the acceptance or return of instructions are covered along with the conduct of work, pupils, pupil supervisors and pupillage and dual qualification. It provides for compliance and sanctions which can be disciplinary or financial and can involve the barrister being required to pay an aggrieved party compensation.

Any aspect of professional ethics and conduct is the core of the profession. It provides the basis by which all practitioners should conduct themselves both in public and private to ensure that a reputation fitting to the gravitas of the position and profession is maintained at all times.

The fundamentality of this aspect of practice is an important part of life as a practicing barrister and should therefore hold a prominent place in the learning process leading to qualification and eventual membership of the bar and practice as a barrister. Whilst the code may not be known in its entirety verbatim, there are important aspects that should be learnt thoroughly, for example the 'Cab-rank rule' in relation to taking on cases. The main stay of the nature of the Code is common sense in essence but it is the art of applying it to real life scenarios to reach the correct conclusions that takes practise and time to learn. Inclusion of this subject in the academic training of barristers ensures that new practitioners can uphold the age-old respect that the profession commands and the esteem that members of the profession should hold and promote consistently as a matter of course.