Fountain Court Chambers has a policy on information barriers to ensure that the confidentiality requirements of the Bar Code of Conduct are met and that confidentiality is maintained by barristers, clerks and other members of staff.
When a barrister is instructed on a new case, a clerk or clerk team are allocated (which will normally be the barrister’s usual clerk/clerk team, subject to paragraph 2.1. below) and the barrister’s instructing solicitors are informed as to who their point of contact within the clerking team is.
Clerks/clerk teams have access to private rooms if they have to make telephone calls that are confidential. Clerks/clerk teams will maintain the confidentiality of all confidential information about a case.
1.2. Distribution of papers
We ensure that care is taken so that papers are kept confidential to the barrister working on the case; papers/ faxes are promptly delivered to the barrister in question and placed in his/her room: please note it is not acceptable for the clerks to leave papers in barristers’ pigeon holes unless the papers are in a pack or sealed.
It is also the duty of any barrister not to leave sensitive documents in a position where they might be viewed by another person. Members each:
- Have individual email addresses and direct lines so that they can be reached at any time on a confidential basis,
- Have the ability to print documents to Chambers’ printers using a pin operated mailbox system and
- Often have their own printers in their rooms which should be used for confidential printing particularly for smaller scale printing.
- Have the ability to arrange for documents (e.g. working drafts) to be shredded prior to secure disposal.
The clerks operate a regular sweep of Chambers’ printers, whereby any papers left on a printer are removed unread and placed in the barrister’s room, or pigeon hole or destroyed. Note that is a fail-safe system, and no papers should be found on any sweep. The primary sources of protection are set out above. All printing must use secure methods which do not involve confidential documents being at risk of being read by third parties.
We maintain an electronic diary system (LEX) which is in common use across the Bar.
Each member only has access to his/her own individual diary.
Where papers are sent to a barrister but the barrister is not able to accept the instructions (for example because they are conflicted, unavailable etc) then the barrister will not be shown on the diary system as an active barrister on the case and the barrister will not be able to access any confidential information about the case.
Access to barristers’ diaries by members of staff is limited to appropriate personnel only.
Chambers do not print a daily diary page.
1.4. Returning papers
Right up to the conclusion of a case Fountain Court take care to ensure that confidentiality is not breached by things not being securely disposed of; we will always contact the instructing solicitor in advance and offer either a secure shredding service (suitable where the documents are not required to be held by the solicitor under the Solicitor’s professional duties) or return the papers to the instructing solicitor.
2. Specific provisions applicable when Fountain Court’s barristers are instructed on opposite sides in the same case, or act as arbitrators in cases where members of our chambers are involved as counsel for one or other of the parties
Fountain Court’s barristers often find themselves instructed on opposite sides in the same case, or a member may act as an arbitrator in a case where members of our chambers are involved as counsel for one or other of the parties. We maintain a strict policy in relation to client confidentiality both at member and clerk level, and we recognise the need to be careful to protect each client’s best interests and each client’s confidential information.
When a case comes into chambers it is identified as to whether or not it is a case where a barrister(s) in Chambers is/are already acting for another part(ies) in the case, or as arbitrator(s) in the case. Where this occurs a clerk, or clerk team are allocated to the new case (which must be a different clerk or clerk team to the clerk(s) or clerk team(s) already allocated to the barrister(s) acting for other part(ies) in the case) and all parties’ instructing solicitors are informed as to who their point of contact within the clerking team is. We operate an information barrier between each clerking team.
Please be aware in some instances a party will not want the opposing party to know that they have instructed counsel and/or that they have instructed counsel in Chambers. The clerking team and the barrister(s) in question will preserve any such wish for confidentiality. We have a list of cases where there are members of chambers acting for one or more different parties which is held confidentially so that Reception / other clerks and staff know where to direct calls and who to pass papers to so that our service to the client is carried out to the highest standard possible, and protecting confidentiality. Please note, as stated above, clerks also have access to private rooms if they have to make telephone calls that are confidential.
Should a member of the clerking team be away from Chambers ‘out of office’ email and voicemail accounts inform the sender or leaver of a message of that fact. Clerks do not have access to the email or voicemail accounts of other clerks.
In arbitration cases members of chambers will inform those appointing them if they are aware that another member of chambers has already been appointed as an arbitrator or is already acting for a party in the case. The same applies in cases where an Arbitrator is being appointed after Counsel has already been instructed.
We encourage solicitors where there are particular sensitivities to give a case a project name, so that in the barrister’s diary the project name is all that will appear.
2.3. Discussions amongst members of Chambers
Barristers on opposing sides of the case will not discuss the matter, unless on a formal basis in accordance with their duties under their instructions. When communicating with their clerk or another member of Chambers precautions are taken to ensure that discretion is used and the conversation takes place outside of a common place and in private so that the contents of the discussion remain confidential.
Our Clerking teams are happy to discuss your requirements in confidence, and will promptly and efficiently deal with any enquiries you may have. Please contact Alex Taylor, Senior Clerk on 020 7842 3706, email email@example.com