Immigration barristers with public access clients must publish their rates online under new price transparency rules.
Bar Standards Board regulations now say that all self-employed barristers and chambers must provide basic pricing information, such as whether they charge fixed or hourly fees. Public access barristers taking on certain work — including non-asylum immigration appeals — must publish additional information, over and above the general requirements, such as “indicative fees” and whether or not those include VAT.
The changes are partly incorporated in the new edition of the Bar Standards Handbook, which came into force on 1 July. Section D6.1 deals with the general price transparency rules, while section D6.2 states that “Self-employed barristers undertaking public access work and/or their chambers, and BSB entities supplying legal services directly to the public, are required by the Bar Standards Board’s price transparency policy statement to provide price information in relation to certain legal services in certain circumstances”.
The price transparency policy spells out what “certain legal services in certain circumstances” are. Included are:
Immigration appeals (First-tier Tribunal)
- Preparing applications in relation to appeals against Home Office visa or immigration decisions; and/or
- Providing advice and representation at the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in relation to appeals against Home Office visa or immigration decisions.
Note that additional price transparency rules do not apply to asylum appeals.
The requirements for barristers who fall into that category are as follows;
In relation to those Public Access services, each website of self-employed barristers undertaking public access work and/or their chambers, and BSB entities supplying legal services directly to the public, must in a sufficiently accessible and prominent place:
- State their pricing model(s) e.g. fixed fee, hourly rate, etc.;
- State their indicative fees and the circumstances in which they may vary e.g. a fixed fee and the circumstances in which additional fees may be charged, or an hourly rate by seniority of barrister;
- State whether their fees include VAT (where applicable);
- State likely additional costs, what they cover and either the cost or, if this can only be estimated, the typical range of costs; and
- Do so in such form as the BSB determines. Sole practitioners and BSB entities are single economic units. A sole practitioner must therefore provide price information in relation to them as an individual barrister, and a BSB entity must provide price information in relation to the entity. However, chambers are constituted of individual self-employed barristers and are not single economic units. They may therefore provide price information either in relation to individual barristers, or barristers in chambers in the form of ranges or average fees.
There is an immigration-specific template for how to do this provided in the BSB’s transparency guidance.
The Law Society Gazette adds that, while the rules are now in force, barristers have until January 2020 to comply. Solicitors have had to publish prices for certain immigration work since last December.