Sole practitioners

You cannot set up completely on your own if you are a barrister of less than three years’ standing. The BSB Handbook rS20 requires that your principal place of practice must be a chambers, or chambers annex, which is also the principal place of practice of a ‘qualified person’ who is able to provide you with guidance, or an office where there is someone of the requisite experience. For details see the BSB Handbook, rules S20, 21 and related guidance.

If you later become a sole practitioner you will be solely responsible for the running of a chambers and all the regulatory requirements which that entails, including ensuring that your practice is efficiently and properly administered (see BSB Handbook rC87.1 and rC89). Note that a sole practitioner is a chambers within the BSB definition.

Serious consideration should be given to the decision to become a sole practitioner. This may be isolating and you may lack support and there may be difficulties with work which has to be returned.

NB: it is not a regulatory requirement for you to have a clerk. However you will need to decide whether you can run your practice in accordance with the BSB Handbook without administrative support.

It is essential that you are able to do the following (at least):

  • Log briefs on arrival.
  • Have facilities to ensure that your work is completed in good time and that you do not take on more work than you can manage.
  • Have suitable diary facilities to avoid clashes.
  • Keep adequate records of your work, see BSB Handbook rC87.2 and guidance at gC132.
  • Send out fee notes in good time and keep adequate records of fees: see BSB Handbook rC88.
  • Comply with the BSB Handbook e.g. providing clients with terms of business (see rC22 and rC23) and complaints procedure (see section 5A), conflicts procedure and appropriate confidentiality procedures (rC89.5 and gC134)and having a Equality and Diversity policy, appropriate risk management procedures (rC89.8) and changes in regulatory matters from time to time and liaising with the BSB (rC89.2).

On the plus side, you are permitted to negotiate your own fees, to practise from your own home (although the BSB does have a right to inspect the place where you practise: see BSB Handbook, you do not need to have a name plate on the door and you can hold conferences wherever is convenient.

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