The councils have appointed FirstLAW, a legal tendering and audit solicitors firm, to negotiate a standard rate for local barristers after claiming the rates charged differed from area to area and were more expensive than London.
But the Bar Council, the official regulatory body for barristers, branded the move 'anti-competitive' and suggested the rates offered were too low.
Sandra Stewart, the deputy borough solicitor of Tameside MBC, the lead council, said: 'I am surprised by the Bar Council's response.
Anthony Armitage, the chief executive of FirstLAW, hit back at the council, accusing it of being anti-competitive itself.
He said: 'We have been doing this sort of work for three years and never had any complaints. At the end of the day chambers don't have to accept the rates if they don't want to.'