So a falling number of barristers are paying the fee that funds the Bar Council's representative work (see link below). They're the lucky ones, though. Solicitors, of course, don't currently have such a choice, as the society's representative work is handily tied up with the practising certificate fee (around 25-30% of it goes to the Law Society, instead of to the SRA to fund its regulatory work).
The extent to which work that is not strictly regulatory can still be captured by the compulsory PC fee is governed by the 'permitted purposes' regime in section 51 of the Legal Services Act 2007. The Law Society, unsurprisingly, is keen to define this as widely as possible.
The reality is that if not enough barristers are paying a voluntary fee to fund representative work, the situation is likely to be even worse if solicitors were given the choice. For all its PR and bluster, the Law Society remains of marginal use and importance to many solicitors.
The society (as a representative body) is a sizeable institution employing plenty of people; commercial income is nowhere near sufficient to pay for its representative work and would in fact be hit badly if Chancery Lane could not longer tell sponsors and advertisers that it had a captive audience of 150,000+ solicitors.
The Legal Services Board is looking at the issue as part of its cost of regulation project. It's not clear from the material published by the LSB whether concrete proposals for reform will come out of this project.
But should it make any move to constrain what the Law Society can lump on to the PC fee for its own purposes, it can expect quite a fight.
Mr MacDonald said the declining number of barristers who paid the Bar representation fee (BRF) in 2014/15 represented “a continuing trend”. He explained: “This will lead, unless there is an increase in the proportion of the Bar prepared to pay the BRF, to really significant inroads into the representational activities of the Bar Council