Terms of Business
Lincoln House Chambers has enjoyed a tremendous reputation since its formation in 1978 and is now recognised as one of the most successful Chambers in the North of England.
How has this been achieved? It has been through a progressive approach, sheer hard work, careful recruitment, providing excellent services and because we offer advocacy at the highest level and an incomparable strength in depth.
However we are not complacent and recognise that we work in a very competitive environment where quality of service and representation is essential. We are aware that we have to provide a level of service that is second to none and that is what we aim to do. Our pursuit of excellence means that all members of Chambers are committed to providing a high quality service.
We were the first Chambers on the Northern Circuit to be awarded “Barmark” – a quality mark that is awarded by the British Standards Institute. We have also attained the Legal Service Commission’s Quality Mark. Both awards are a sign of the standards to which we adhere and aspire.
The essential details that you will need to know when dealing with Lincoln House Chambers are set out below. If you have any queries about any matter relating to Chambers then please do not hesitate to contact Chambers’ Senior Clerk, David Wright.
Best Practice Standards
It is Chambers’ policy to ensure that it collectively and individually accepts responsibility to ensure that the needs, concerns and interests of both lay and professional clients are prioritised. To ensure this, client care arrangements are reviewed, possible weaknesses identified and improvements made where necessary.
It is the policy of Chambers to ensure that the Barristers act in accordance with Paragraph 603 of the Code of Conduct (regarding confidentiality). We take particular care in ensuring that any conflicts of interest are dealt with in a professional manner where members of Chambers are instructed on behalf of different parties or as an arbitrator in a case involving members of Chambers.
On Receipt of Briefs or Instructions
We can receive briefs, instructions and correspondence by telephone, fax, document exchange (DX), e-mail or post. When the brief is received the client will be informed of:
(a) the basis upon which fees will be charged (where necessary) – fees are agreed between the client and the Senior Clerk or his deputy; and
(b) the time-scale within which the barrister expects to complete the work (for example in Civil cases, the standard turnaround for “advices” and “opinions” is no more than 14 days unless otherwise agreed in advance).
A “client acknowledgement letter” is sent to notify the client that instructions have been received, logged onto the system and the papers put before Counsel. The acknowledgement letter also confirms the following: case reference number and name of Barrister dealing with the case; contact name of clerk/s involved; client care information; complaints/feedback procedure; and reference to policy on basis of fees and terms of business.
When logging instructions onto the diary system, the Clerks conduct a “conflict of interest” check on the client database. Barristers are required to check papers within 7 working days of receipt to ensure that there are no immediately obvious conflicts of interest. In such cases Counsel must immediately advise the professional/lay client that he/she should instruct another barrister, in accordance with Paragraph 605 of the Code of Conduct.
During the Progress of the Case
The Barrister will remain vigilant to the potential for a conflict to arise through the progress of the case and will inform the Senior Clerk and client/s if such a conflict should arise.
Civil Barristers record time spent on a case on a “Civil Brief Form”. They will also “endorse” the brief. Criminal Barristers record the information on the brief itself. They may also keep an independent work schedule (generally when involved in more substantial cases) that records when and for how long a case was prepared. The information is taken by the Clerks and recorded on the diary system. This will (in the case of private, ex-post facto and Civil (including immigration) work) substantiate the fee-note eventually raised.
The Clerks can view the progress of a case and can advise clients of any potential delays or clashes of commitment by viewing the computerised diary system. If such problems arise then the Clerks will liaise with the client and arrange a contingency plan. The diary will be updated accordingly.
Reports can be run from the Meridian computer system to identify any papers that are due or overdue so that they can be returned to the client. The Clerks will chase up any paperwork when necessary. An analysis of overdue papers (excluding those where the delay was due to waiting for further papers from the client) is conducted by the Senior Clerk on a regular basis. This is used to monitor compliance with the service standard of a 14 day turnaround.
It is the Barrister’s responsibility to ensure that the client is kept fully informed (either directly or via the Clerks) of the progress on their case. Information may be provided in writing or verbally as appropriate and is left to the discretion of the Clerks. However written communication is always sent at the following stages: acknowledgement of briefs; to confirm complicated fee negotiations; return of paperwork; when discussing complex taxation issues; and dealing with dissatisfaction (other than formal complaints).
Paperwork returned by the client due to inadequate or missing information is reviewed in the first instance by the Clerk or Barrister (depending upon who the client contacts). This may often be discussed just with the client as there may, for example, have been a misunderstanding of requirements. However those accompanied by an obvious expression of dissatisfaction will be noted and addressed using the Corrective Action Request. If accompanied by a formal complaint then the matter will be dealt with in accordance with the following procedure.
Client Complaint Procedures
Any formal complaint or other significant feedback is recorded using the Corrective Action Request. The Corrective Action Request should be completed as far as possible by the person receiving the complaint or feedback. It is then passed to the Director of Clerking together with copies of any incoming / outgoing correspondence for review and filing.
Formal complaints are acknowledged in writing within 48 hours. Other significant feedback will be assessed by the Director of Clerking in liaison with other personnel (if necessary) to assess the best method of response. This may be to contact the client concerned and invite them to put their concerns formally in writing or to resolve the issue by telephone immediately.
With less serious complaints the issue may be resolved by the Director of Clerking in liaison with the relevant personnel. Where possible, the action agreed will be indicated in the same letter sent to acknowledge the complaint.
Where the complaint is less easily resolved (for example if the complaint is in respect of legal competence or professional conduct) and requires deeper investigation and discussion (involving the Head of Chambers if necessary) then the client will be advised of our intentions in the “complaint acknowledgement letter”. This is so that the client is aware that their complaint is being dealt with comprehensively. An indication of when they will receive a full reply is given (usually within 21 days).
The Director of Clerking maintains a central file of all formal complaints and other significant incidents of negative client feedback. All correspondence is kept with the relevant Corrective Action Request on file. A separate file for procedural problems and any other instances where a Corrective Action Request has been raised is held by the Director of Clerking.
All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary. Disclosure will be to the Head of Chambers, the Chambers Director, members of our management committee and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister member or staff who you have complained about and the person who investigates the complaint if that is not the Director of Clerking. The Bar Standards Board is entitled to inspect the documents and seek information about the complaint when discharging its auditing and monitoring functions.
Complaints to the Legal Ombudsman;
If you are unhappy with the outcome of our investigation you may take up your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman, the independent complaints body for complaints about lawyers, at the conclusion of our consideration of your complaint. The Ombudsman is not able to consider your complaint until it has first been investigated by Chambers. Please note that the Legal Ombudsman has a twelve-month time limit from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining within which to make your complaint. You can write to the Legal Ombudsman at:
PO Box 15870
Telephone number: 0300 555 0333
These guidelines have been instituted so that any breach of confidence is avoided at all costs. There are specific areas where Chambers has highlighted potential areas where a breach may occur. However this is a very sensitive area and so great care and attention has been given to ensuring the confidentiality of our clients.
All members of Lincoln House Chambers are registered under the Data Protection Act. All members of staff must sign a confidentiality agreement as part of their contract of employment.
It is often the case that Counsel in Chambers represent both sides in a case. It is our policy to inform both sets of Solicitors that we have been instructed. Their views are sought and we then act accordingly. Both Counsel are informed of each other’s involvement in the case. The Solicitors are asked whether they or the client would have any objections to both Counsel from the same Chambers being involved in the case. Ultimately it is the client’s choice. However it is important that both Counsel and the Clerks are aware of the position
If a conflict arises then we shall try and arrange for a separate Clerk to deal with each side of the case. The Clerks will then deal with the case in a professional, discrete and confidential manner.
It is our policy that any papers relating to a specific case are viewed as confidential to Counsel involved in that case.
When papers arrive in Chambers, they are booked on to our computer system and then left in either Counsel’s pigeon-hole or, if more substantial, in a secure area on their desks. New briefs/papers are not left in the Clerk’s Room but distributed to Counsel as quickly as possible.
If sensitive documents or videos are delivered then they are either placed in the “paper” or “video” safe. A note is made on the “back-page” of the case. Counsel are informed that sensitive material has arrived and that, when not placed in the safe, they have sole responsibility for its security and confidentiality.
Each computer within the Clerk’s Room has an individual password known only to the Senior Clerk and the user. The diary cannot be accessed by any Barrister.
A “paper-copy” of the diary is maintained for reference purposes only and does not contain any sensitive material.
All incoming faxes are received on one fax machine. The faxes are logged onto the computer system as they are received. Again it is Chamber’s Policy that any faxes are treated with the utmost confidentiality. Discretion is of paramount importance.
Counsel are not required to retrieve the faxes – that is the sole responsibility of the Clerks. This ensures that any material that is received is seen only by the Counsel to whom the fax is addressed.
Each member of Chambers and each member of staff has a personal e-mail address which can receive and send e-mails. Those e-mail accounts are private and the contents confidential and they can only be accessed by the individual person concerned. All members of Chambers and staff will endeavour to respond to e-mail communication within 48 hours of receipt.
When the Barristers are away from Chambers then any papers are stored in as safe a place as practical. No sensitive papers are left on view. It is the sole responsibility of the Barristers to ensure that any papers that are deemed confidential are stored in a sensible manner.
Discussion amongst Members of Chambers
Barristers do not discuss cases that they are involved with on opposite sides unless it is done so on a formal basis. Both Counsel and Clerks are aware of the discretion required when dealing with other members of Chambers or Solicitors.
If there is a breach of confidentiality then all necessary steps will be taken to minimise the extent and effect of the breach. The Barrister instructed must question his/her role in the case. In the unfortunate event of a breach, Chambers’ procedures will be reviewed and any appropriate action taken if necessary.
When Chambers allow mini-pupils or people on work-experience into Chambers, they are expected to sign a “confidentiality agreement”. Lincoln House Chambers will take any appropriate action against an individual disclosing any sensitive or confidential information.
Equal Opportunities Policy
The members and staff at Lincoln House Chambers are committed to equal opportunities in all aspects of its work.
All Barristers have committed to observe the Bar Council Code of Conduct in relation to non-discrimination in the acceptance of work, the carrying out of that work and all dealings with clients, colleagues, staff etc.
All staff have committed by signing their “contract of employment” to comply with this policy.
All job applicants, pupillage and tenancy applicants, employees, members and clients will receive equal treatment regardless of sex, marital status, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.
By way of examples, the following do not comply with Chambers’ policy:-
“Direct discrimination” where a person is less favourably treated because of sex, race or disability, for example refusal of promotion on the grounds of colour.
“Indirect discrimination” where a requirement or condition which cannot be justified is applied equally to all groups but has a disproportionate and adverse effect on one particular group. For example, the setting of an age-limit for a post which may exclude many women of that age who are unable to apply for the post as a result of family commitments.
Victimisation where someone is treated less favourably because they have taken action against Chambers under one of the relevant Acts.
Chambers will take the following actions to support this policy:-
All job advertisements, wherever placed, will include a statement akin to “Chambers are Equal Opportunities Employers”.
When recruiting, Chambers will take steps to try and attract applications from both sexes and all races. We will ensure that there are equal opportunities in all stages of the recruitment process.
Promotion within Chambers will be based solely on merit.
Clerks will ensure that all work is offered equally to those of similar skills and experience (subject to availability) and will take the necessary action under the Bar Code of Conduct should any professional client seek to unfairly influence the use of a particular Barrister or decline to use a Barrister on discriminatory grounds.
All selection of pupils and tenants will be guided by this policy. This is detailed further in the specific sections of the Pupillage Policy.
Chambers is committed to allowing members of staff and tenants suitable maternity/paternity leave of at least the statutory minimum without prejudice to their career development.
Chambers will monitor all recruitment exercises to ensure that equal consideration and opportunity is given to all applicants. Should this monitoring reveal that there is an imbalance then the Management Committee will decide whether suitable action needs to be taken.
Discipline – Chambers will treat seriously and take disciplinary action when any member, pupil, employee or client has a grievance as a result of discrimination or harassment on sexual, racial or disability grounds.
Grievance – any member, pupil or employee who feels that they have been unfairly disadvantaged in any way under these rules may take the matter up in strictest confidence with the Head of Chambers who will investigate and take appropriate action, including disciplinary action if necessary.
Lincoln House Chambers has created this privacy statement in order to demonstrate our firm commitment to your privacy. The following discloses our information-gathering and dissemination practices for this web site. If you have any questions or queries regarding this statement, please contact the person named at the end of this statement.
Information We Automatically Collect
As part of the on-going process of improving our web site, its content and the service we provide to our clients, we may record information about your computer. The information collected is limited to details of the web browser used, the operating system version, current screen resolution and colour depth, your domain name and the domain from which you are making your request. Unless you are the sole owner and user of the domain, we would not be able to identify you personally. This means your session will be logged, but who you are remains anonymous to us.
We use the information collected in this way to produce aggregate reports on visitor demographics and traffic patterns solely for our own use. This allows us to improve and tailor the content and design of the site.
Information You Provide
On pages such as Contact Us, you may be asked to provide us with a variety of details such as your name, firm or company, email addresses, etc. We do not gather this or any other more personal information without your knowledge and active permission and participation.
Personal information that has been volunteered to us is not made available to any third parties or combined with data from external agencies.
Where you give your consent, we may make use of the information to contact you via email or postal mail (e.g. to send newsletters, brochures, etc.).
Changes and Deletions
Should you wish to have your information removed from any of our mailing lists or believe the information we have is incorrect, please contact the person named at the end of this policy.
This site contains links to other web sites and Lincoln House Chambers is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such sites.
Security of Information
We recognise the need to ensure that information gathered through our web site remains secure and our site has security measures in place to protect the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control.
Access to information volunteered by visitors to our web site is limited only to members and employees of chambers. Access to information gathered automatically is limited only to members and employees of chamber and our Internet Service Provider.
Any member or employee who violates our privacy and/or security policies may be subject to appropriate action, including possible civil and/or criminal prosecution.
If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, or your own dealings with this Web site, please contact:
Director of Clerking
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org