Barristers will soon be able to offer a full range of legal services after the Bar Council unveiled a third-party escrow account which will hold client money.
All funds are to be held in a ring-fenced account with Barclays and the Bar Council said BARCO will “make it easier than ever to work with the Bar”.
As well as performing a key role in entity regulation – once it is introduced by the Bar Standards Board – the new service will sharpen competition from direct access barristers, who are already benefiting from the likes of Stobart Barristers.
BARCO will launch formally in 2013 after a national roadshow this autumn to explain it to barristers as well as an initial pilot phase.
A limited liability company, it is applying to be regulated by the Financial Services Authority and will comply with the regulatory obligations arising from the Payment Services Regulations 2009. BARCO remains subject to any approval process arising from the new Bar Standards Board Handbook.
Bar Council chairman Michael Todd QC said BARCO provides “an ideal platform” through which the Bar can handle its financial affairs, and would improve competition in the legal market.
He said: “I am delighted to be launching BARCO which, we believe, will be one of the most important developments in the legal services sector since the Legal Services Act came into force.
“Demand for barristers’ advocacy and advisory services is growing all over the world. Domestic and international clients of all sizes, which regularly turn to the Bar, need a trustworthy and transparent vehicle to manage payment of their legal and litigation costs.
“BARCO puts the Bar on a level playing field, whether through the traditional referral model, offering public access services, or, in the future, structuring itself as an entity.”
Mr Todd argued that BARCO is “more than simply a bank account” – it provides clients with the facility to access the full range of the Bar’s services, and it enables the Bar “to change its business without changing the way it does business”.