The Bar adopted a new Code of Conduct in 2014. It sets out the rules and practices of the Bar together with rulings from time to time made by the Bar Council in relation to certain matters of conduct, etiquette and relationships with others.
Barristers are obliged to uphold the integrity of the Bar and Code at all times. It is their duty to be independent and free from influences, especially such as may arise from their personal interests or external pressures in the discharge of their professional duty.
Barristers have a duty to comply with the Code. They must not engage in conduct that is dishonest or may bring the profession into disrepute or is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Barristers must observe the ethics and etiquette of their profession. They must be competent in all of their professional activities. Barristers must be individually responsible for their conduct. They must conduct themselves so that they do not fall short of the standard of conduct expected of them.
Barristers must cooperate with Bar Council investigations under the Code. They must cooperate with investigations by the Barristers’ Professional Conduct Tribunal or the Barristers’ Professional Conduct Appeals Board pursuant to the Disciplinary Code of the Bar or the Disciplinary Committee of the Benchers of Kings Inns.
Breach of Code
Failure to comply with any of the above duties is professional misconduct. It renders the Barrister liable to exclusion or suspension from membership of the Law Library. They may be reported to the Benchers of Kings Inns with a view to disbarment. Alternatively, they may be fined subject to management or suspension for a period from practice. Disbarment and suspension are appropriate for serious professional misconduct.
The Bar Council may conduct investigations into matters of serious concern in the context of professional conduct or matters brought to their attention, which are likely to bring the profession into disrepute.
The Council may initiate and conduct investigations whether or not complaints have been made. It is misconduct on the part of a barrister not to cooperate with an investigation.
Subject to the rules, barristers hold themselves out as willing and o appear in court on behalf of any client on the instructions of a solicitor and give legal advice or other legal services to any client.
Duties of Barristers
Barristers have an overriding duty to the court in the public interest that the proper and efficient administration of justice is achieved. They must assist the court in the administration of justice and must not deceive or knowingly mislead the court.
Barristers must promote and protect fiercely by all proper and lawful means, a client’s best interest without regard to their own interests and the consequence for themselves or others, including fellow members of the legal profession.
Barristers are individually responsible for their own conduct. They must uphold the standards of the Code at all times and the dignity and high standing of the profession of barrister, as well as their own standing as members of the profession.
Barristers must avoid any impairment of their independence and be careful not to compromise professional standards in order to please the client, court or third party.
Barristers must report that they have been convicted of a criminal offence regarding dishonesty or an offence that may bring the profession into misconduct.
Barristers are excluded from occupations that conflict with the duties contained in the Code. They may engage in a part-time occupation that is not inconsistent with the Code.
Barristers may be arbitrators, mediators or receive remuneration from such office. They may be members of a law centre and accept non-paid work, provided they are instructed and attended by a solicitor in court.
Barristers may be members of other public bodies, boards or councils whether paid or unpaid.
Barristers may not abuse their title. They may disclose their professional qualification in a manner consistent with the Code.
In relation to matters outside the ordinary professional functions of a barrister, the Barrister should consult the Bar Council in relation to any matter affected by the Code as to what they may do or not do whether for remuneration or not.
Having regard to the length and complexity of a case and their other professional commitments, barristers must accept instructions in any case in the field from which they profess to practice having regard to their experience and seniority, subject to payment of a proper fee. They may refuse instructions where there is a conflict of interest or where they possess confidential or other relevant information or in other circumstances.
Barristers must ensure their practice is efficiently and properly administered. They must take all reasonable and practical steps to ensure their court engagements are properly fulfilled.
Barristers may not accept instructions where they cannot reasonably expect to give adequate attention to them within a reasonable time. They have a duty to their instructing solicitor to inform the solicitor promptly if it becomes apparent that they are unlikely to be able to attend to their instructions or if there is likely to be a substantial delay in attending to them.
Where fees are outstanding from a solicitor for a period of three months, after the fee note is submitted, the Barrister may in his own initiative make a complaint to the Law Society in respect of the solicitor or may follow any other procedure for recovery of fees that are appropriate in the circumstances.
A barrister is not obliged to act further in a matter where his fee has not been paid. Where barristers cannot deal with matters personally, they should return papers to the solicitor.
A barrister is to report complaints against solicitors for unpaid fees to the Bar Council and the Law Society where a fee is unpaid for a period in excess of 12 months unless there is a reasonable explanation.
Barristers must be insured at all times against claims based on professional negligence. They must insure to the extent it is reasonable having regard to the nature of the risks they incur, not below the minimum level set by the Bar Council. They may enter arrangements with solicitors or clients to limit their liability for an amount that is not less than the minimum professional indemnity limit.
Barristers are prohibited from handling clients’ money. They shall not give financial advice or assistance to a client or their solicitor on the investment of funds or assets.
Barristers may advertise by placing prescribed information concerning themselves on the Bar Council’s website. They may advertise, subject to such rules as may be made from time to time by the Bar Council. The rules shall be for the purpose of protecting the public interest, facilitating competition and maintaining proper professional standards.
Papers and briefs delivered to the Barrister are the property of the client. They may not be revealed to third parties without the consent of their client or solicitor.
A barrister may not make a public comment in any case in which he has been briefed or instructed or upon any parties involved. They may not write for publications broadcast by radio, TV, publish in a book or otherwise permit to be published any particulars of any matter in which they have been or are currently engaged as barristers.
Barristers who have retired from practice may write memoirs of their experience at the Bar using due discretion in regard to cases in which they have been engaged or for the feelings of persons concerned. They must observe the code of conduct regarding professional confidence.
Barristers must not use for professional or private purposes or otherwise disclose information accidentally or otherwise, observes from documents or from conversations with or between colleagues in or out of the Law Library.
Barristers may describe themselves as a barrister or senior Counsel as the case may be. Barristers may speak publicly or publish matters in newspapers or articles, notwithstanding that doing so, they may state facts or express their own opinions on matters relating to law.
They must ensure however that their statements are legally and factually correct. They must not discuss any case in which they are or were engaged or directly or indirectly suggest that any client or class of client were advised to employ them or breach any provision of the Code.
Barristers writing or speaking as above on a matter relating to the practice of the Bar, the courts, administration of justice, must acquaint themselves with any policy or position of the Bar Council on the matter concerned.
Barristers may appear as an actor, provided they do not disclose they are barristers. They may not appear as robed or act the part of a barrister. They may not broadcast on matters in which they have been engaged. They may not broadcast about their practice at the Bar.
Barristers may not contact or engage with the press or the media on behalf of their clients. Where there has been a hearing before a court, they may not discuss or show the pleadings to a news reporter unless the court has directed otherwise or the client has expressly instructed them otherwise, or there has been an agreement of the parties to do so.
Barristers may arrange to be photographed as barristers, only on being called to the Bar, on becoming a judge, or where otherwise permitted above or in relation to permitted advertisement.
Meetings of the Bar Council are private and are not to be disclosed to the media. In matters of professional conduct only, the Bar Council speaks on behalf of the Bar. Matters may be brought to the attention of the Bar at general meetings.
The order of precedence between barristers in court and in the conduct of professional business is the
- Attorney general
- Senior Counsel in the order called in a bar
- Junior Counsel in the order called to the bar.
In the case of Junior Counsel called after 1988 who did not commence practice within 12 months of their call, they are required to waive their precedence and take precedence in the order of their joining the Law Library.
Where one or more barristers is briefed, it is for the leader to determine to what extent any of them may be absent from the hearing and the consent of the instructing solicitors is necessary for such absence as is permitted by the leader. A barrister may only be led by another barrister subject to limited circumstances involving a foreign lawyer.