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Bar’s third-party service gets FSA approval

Picture of money for Your Expert Witness storyThe Financial Services Authority (FSA) has granted regulatory approval under the Payment Services Regulations for the Bar Council's scheme to allow barristers to hold client's funds via a third party. The new service, known as BARCO, will allow clients to instruct barristers directly, instead of having to appoint them via solicitors. BARCO will initially involve a limited number of chambers, with a full roll-out expected in the spring.

According to a statement issued on 10 January by the Bar Council: "BARCO provides a straightforward, easily accessible, client-focused facility, whilst maintaining the Bar's high quality and cost-effective services."

BARCO is owned and operated by the Bar Council and provides an escrow service to receive funds from clients under a contractual arrangement, which are required in relation to on-going legal services for legal fees, alternative dispute resolution and other costs for experts' services, disbursements and settlements. The payment of funds from the escrow account is determined by the contract, allowing barristers to offer a full range of legal services without breaching their Code of Conduct by handling client money themselves.

Michael Todd QC, Chairman of the BARCO Committee and immediate past chairman of the Bar, said: "I am delighted that the FSA has granted approval to BARCO. We believe that it will offer an imaginative and unique solution for clients all over the world, making it easier than ever before to work with the Bar, whilst maintaining the Bar's high quality and cost-effective services.

"We look forward to sharing more details about the progress of the first phase in due course."

At the launch of the scheme in September he said: "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 is more than simply a bank account. It provides clients with the facility seamlessly to access the full range of the Bar's high-quality services, and it enables the Bar to change its business without changing the way it does business.

"The Bar is a forward-looking and modern profession which can tailor its services to ensure it remains relevant to its diverse and growing client base, and BARCO provides an ideal platform through which the Bar can handle its financial affairs.

"It is a significant investment in the Bar's future. It is good for clients, good for the Bar and good for competition in the legal services market."

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 January 2013 18:17

Dispute numbers fall as recession fades

The total number of commercial and civil disputes resolved through arbitration, mediation and adjudication fell in the two years to 2011: from 27,110 in 2009 to 21,260. The fall was attributable to the abating of a surge in disputes in the immediate wake of recession, according to a research report published by the financial services lobby group TheCityUK. According to the report, London and the UK remain well positioned internationally in the conduct of dispute resolution.

Announcing the publication of the report, TheCityUK said: "London is the most preferred seat of arbitration and companies are twice as likely to choose English law over any other law. The new Rolls Building in London, opened in 2011, is helping to sustain the UK's reputation as the first choice for business law."

The report, Dispute Resolution in London and the UK, was sponsored by the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) and legal consultancy Jomati. In addition to providing a comprehensive gazetteer of organisations acting in the UK to provide dispute resolution, it offers an overview of the alternative dispute resolution forums offered by the UK to international organisations.

"Cases involving international parties to a dispute tend to be heard in a number of the specialised courts in the UK, notably the Admiralty Court, Commercial Court, the Technology and Construction Court and Chancery Division," the report says. "The use of these courts indicates a preference by foreign parties to litigate in the UK. Factors motivating parties to choose one of these specialist courts as the venue for dispute resolution include: specialist judges drawn from the best specialist practitioners in the field; efficiency and speed; consistent decisions; enforceable judgments; and preference for London as a location.

"These courts also have an important role with respect to arbitration claims, including: determining whether an arbitration agreement is valid; determining whether an arbitration tribunal has been properly constituted; seeking the courts' powers under the Arbitration Act 2006 to support arbitral procedure; and challenging an arbitral award."

Those factors have resulted in companies being twice as likely to choose English law over other governing laws for arbitrations. English law was chosen by 40% of companies and New York state law by 17%. The common costs of arbitrations in the rest of Europe are also 18% higher than in the UK, according a 2011 survey of 20 arbitral organisations by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

• Dispute Resolution in London and the UK is the latest in a series of reports on the subject published by TheCityUK. The reports have been published biennially since 2006 and every three years prior to that.

Family mediation scheme extended

Membership of the Law Society’s family mediation scheme will be extended to all qualified family mediators from April, according to a report in the society’s journal, The Gazette. Currently, membership is restricted to solicitors and fellows of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

The society said in a statement issued on 3 December: “In preparation for a single-standard across family mediation, the Law Society has decided to extend access to its scheme to all suitably qualified family mediators, not just solicitors. From April 2013, those mediators who are currently competence-assessed by the Family Mediation Council will be able to passport across to the Law Society Scheme; mediators seeking first time competence assessment or accreditation will be able to apply directly for scheme membership.”

The Law Society had already decided to adopt the Family Mediation Council's Code of Practice in full. The Law Society had its own Code of Practice, but said that having more than one code was “potentially confusing for practitioners”.

The decision is in response to Government initiatives in the area of mediation.

The Law Society said: “Government policy is to encourage mediation across civil and family disputes, and family mediation is the one area of legal aid which will attract additional funding. The government has recently prepared draft legislation to introduce a mandatory requirement (with some exceptions) to go to a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before any application is made to the courts.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 December 2012 18:38

Cameron sets his sights on Judicial Reviews

Picture of David Cameron speaking at the CBIPrime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to reform the Judicial Review process – claiming that cases can be costly and can clog up the courts and delay justice. The risk of a Judicial Review can also hold up major infrastructure projects.

Mr Cameron said Judicial Reviews are "...a massive growth industry in Britain today."

"Back in 1998," he added, "there were four and a half thousand applications for review and that number almost tripled in a decade. Of course some are well-founded, as we saw with the West Coast mainline decision. But let's face it: so many are completely pointless. Last year, an application was around 5 times more likely to be refused than granted.

"We urgently needed to get a grip on this. So here's what we're going to do: reduce the time limit when people can bring cases, charge more for reviews so people think twice about time-wasting and instead of giving hopeless cases up to four bites of the cherry to appeal a decision, we will halve that to two."

Last Updated on Monday, 19 November 2012 18:34


Woes continue for MoJ over interpreting contract

Image of people speaking languages for Your Expert Witness storyData released by the Ministry of Justice show that the controversial and much-criticised contract for the provision of translating and interpretation services to courts and tribunals is still not operating to its required target.

The Statistical Bulletin, issued by the MoJ on 18 October, covers the period from 30 January, when the contract with Applied Language Services – now Capita Translation and Interpreting – began, to 31 August. During that period the company was to have taken over all translation and interpreting services, but the MoJ later allowed courts to appoint expert interpreters independently following the initial problems with the contract.

The Bulletin gives the rate of ‘success’ for requests from different sources for a number of languages, broken down by month.

Last Updated on Friday, 19 October 2012 14:32