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Retainers, fee arrangements and non-standard work arrangements

Purpose: To assist barristers to identify permissible and impermissible fee arrangements for work undertaken as a self-employed barrister, and to identify when non-standard work arrangements (such as secondments) may trigger specific requirements under the Code of Conduct within the BSB Handbook (including requirements applicable to practice as an employed barrister)
Scope of application: Self-employed barristers (primarily)
Issued by: Ethics and Remuneration Committees
Last reviewed: 05/12/2018
Status and effect: Please see the notice at end of this document. This is not "guidance" for the purposes of the BSB Handbook I6.4.

This document is concerned with fee arrangements, particularly “retainers” of various types, relating to self-employed practice, and the circumstances in which some work arrangements (such as secondments) entered into by self-employed barristers may lead them to being treated as employed barristers under the BSB Handbook.


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This document has been prepared by the Bar Council to assist barristers on matters of professional conduct and ethics. It is not “guidance” for the purposes of the BSB Handbook I6.4, and neither the BSB nor a disciplinary tribunal nor the Legal Ombudsman is bound by any views or advice expressed in it. It does not comprise – and cannot be relied on as giving – legal advice. It has been prepared in good faith, but neither the Bar Council nor any of the individuals responsible for or involved in its preparation accept any responsibility or liability for anything done in reliance on it. For fuller information as to the status and effect of this document, please see here.

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