The Bar Council has published guidance on retainer arrangements. The link is here. This guidance includes a passage in relation to the practice of barristers being pressured into agreeing not act against clients as a pre-condition of instructions. The Bar Council states: "We believe that the problem most commonly occurs in relation to insurance companies, national newspapers, large accountancy firms, and some US clients." This concerns echoes the recent paper published by the SRA on Independence, Representation and Risk which identified similar issues in relation to large solicitors' practices.

One might be forgiven for thinking that this is a recent problem. However, an Imperial Ordinance under the Emperors Valentinian, Valens and Gratian in AD 370 imposed an obligation on judges to ensure that there was a fair distribution of advocates at trial in response to a practice of one party retaining all competent counsel thereby denying the other party of proper legal assistance. Just goes to show that there is nothing new under the sun.