Queensland Law Society

Does the cab-rank rule apply to solicitors?

No. In Queensland, the solicitors’ branch of the profession is governed by the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2012 ('ASCR') which does not include provision for the cab-rank rule. Solicitors are free to accept or reject matters without consideration as to the constraints of the rule.

However, if a solicitor does accept instructions in a matter, he or she must be mindful of the following ethical duties outlined in the ASCR:

  • Rule 4.1.3 – Competence, diligence and promptness
  • Rule 7.1 – Provision of clear and timely advice
  • Rule 8.1 – Lawful and proper instructions
  • Rules 10, 11 and 12 – Former, current and personal conflicts
  • Rule 13.1 – Completion of legal services
  • Rule 42 – Anti-discrimination and harassment

The cab-rank rule does apply to Barristers. In Queensland, Rule 21 of the Barristers’ Conduct Rules 2011 outlines the circumstances in which a barrister must accept a brief from a solicitor:[1]

21. A barrister must accept a brief from a solicitor to appear before a court in a field in which the barrister practises or professes to practise if:

(a) the brief is within the barrister’s capacity, skill and experience;

(b) the barrister would be available to work as a barrister when the brief would require the barrister to appear or to prepare, and the barrister is not already committed to other professional or personal engagements which may, as a real possibility, prevent the barrister from being able to advance a client’s interests to the best of the barrister’s skill and diligence;

(c) the fee offered on the brief is acceptable to the barrister; and

(d) the barrister is not obliged or permitted to refuse the brief under Rules 95, 97, 98 or 99.

The rule is in place to ensure access to justice for all litigants, regardless of their circumstances, and has been described as fundamental to the independent Bar.

[1] Note that the rule does not apply to direct briefs – see Rule 24A.