Dissatisfaction with barristers escalates

Complaints against barristers rose by 260 last year, the largest increase seen since a drive aimed at improving standards at the bar was launched five years ago.

Of the 829 complaints received last year, 464 were from members of the public, while the number of complaints from solicitors rose steeply, from 46 the year before to 72.

The overall rise can be partly attributed to the introduction of the Barristers&#39 Practising Certificate last year, which attracted 299 complaints.

Michael Scott, the lay complaints commissioner to the Bar Council, said in his annual report on complaints against barristers that the “increase in the total reflects the Bar Council&#39s determination to make an example of those who failed to pay for their practising certificates.”

Scott also said that barristers with grievances against colleagues used his office excessively, usually as a result of disputes over fee collection, non-payment of rent or the aftermath of a dissolution of chambers.

A Mori survey of the system will be published in mid-2002. Scott predicts that the rise of complaints arising out of the bar gives favour to direct access, a recommendation made in the Office of Fair Trading&#39s report on competition at the bar.