8 New Square’s barristers are in high demand and are specifically sought out by clients for particular cases. As a result, different barristers in chambers are often instructed, as individuals, on both sides of a case. In addition to this members have been instructed as arbitrators, with other members of chambers as instructed Counsel. This is commonplace in all chambers with specialist counsel and we have strict practices and procedures in place to help prevent members from being in breach of Core Duty 6 and RC15 of the Bar Standards Board Handbook.
The Cab Rank Rule
As barristers are self-employed professionals, chambers does not operate as a partnership or firm (unlike solicitors). There is often healthy competition within chambers and instructions are disseminated subject to the “cab-rank” rule.
There are however cases where barristers may not accept a brief or instructions for reasons of professional embarrassment such as a conflict of interest. This is governed by Rule RC21 of the Bar Standards Board Handbook. The clerks are responsible for determining whether there is a conflict of interest from the outset and processes are in place to run conflict checks before a brief or set of instructions are accepted and passed to counsel.
Clerks are naturally privy to sensitive information and in cases where members are instructed on both sides, information barriers are in place to avoid a conflict of interest or leak of confidential information. Once these arrangements are in place the clerks ensure the following:
- Separate clerks are allocated to either side
- Solicitors are informed of the situation so that they only speak to the relevant clerk
- The barristers concerned are informed of the other’s involvement
- The clerks consider whether any variation of normal procedure is required
- Sensitive documents are only dealt with by the relevant clerk
Due to the nature of the work undertaken in chambers we ensure that all information is kept securely. This involves the use of secure shredding services and IT systems as well as methods of working in chambers.
We are used to working on matters which are particularly confidential and in such circumstances we instigate similar practices to those used in a Information Barrier situation, namely that solicitors will only speak to certain clerks and that any documents will only be dealt with by those clerks. In addition, the use of codenames is sometimes appropriate so that individuals or companies cannot easily be identified.