22 January 2018

High Impact chambers enthusiastically engage with regulator to assess risk, says new report

23 October 2015

170 barristers' chambers rated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) as "high impact" have embraced the opportunity to tell the regulator how they operate.  The results have been collated in a new report published today.

The report embodies the BSB's new approach to regulating the Bar. The regulator looked independently, systematically, carefully and expertly at how chambers are operating. In so doing, it can assure the public that the vast majority of barristers are not only doing a great job for them, but they are also operating out of, for the most part, effective and well-run chambers. Where this is not happening, or where improvements can be made, the regulator now has the information needed to manage risks to chambers' clients appropriately and to help drive improvements.

The new report follows the establishment of the Supervision Team within the regulator, which "impact assessed" chambers up and down the country. The impact assessment refers to how serious the consequences would be for clients if something were to go wrong within the chambers. For example, a poor complaints handling process would have more significant consequences at chambers who deal with high numbers of vulnerable lay clients and thus would have been assessed as "high impact". In 2014, all chambers were assessed for "impact" and rated as either "high", "medium" or "low".

Today's report outlines the results of our review of chambers assessed as high impact.

Of the 170 chambers assessed as being a "high impact" ie, it would be serious if anything did go wrong, only 16 have also been assessed as having a "high risk" of something actually going wrong.  The regulator has visited these chambers in person.

The report explains the process by which the "high impact" chambers were assessed for risk. The approach has allowed the regulator to enhance its understanding of the overall risk landscape.

Areas contributing to chambers' risk assessment included:

  • overall approach to risk management;
  • governance arrangements;
  • internal controls over delivery of services;
  • equality & diversity;
  • pupillage; and,
  • administration of chambers.

This was an opportunity for chambers to describe their key risks and explain how effectively they are managed, to help the regulator determine the likelihood of these risks materialising and to establish the level of supervision and support that chambers might need.

The chambers engaged positively and constructively with the regulator, providing a wealth of quality information.  The BSB acknowledges this fact and thanks them for their efforts.  Many chambers welcomed the independent review of their processes and systems and the constructive nature of the engagement.

The emphasis of the BSB's supervision approach is to work constructively with chambers and barristers and to encourage them to take responsibility for managing their practices. However, it remains open, where chambers do not respond to this approach, fail to complete agreed actions or where there is evidence of professional misconduct, for referral to the regulator's Professional Conduct Department to consider enforcement action. Although this has rarely been necessary, it remains an available option.

BSB Director of Supervision, Oliver Hanmer said: "This report shows that supervision is working.  We have been able to clearly identify and prioritise chambers and barristers who require more focussed regulatory attention to minimise risks.

"There are emerging indications that chambers are taking responsibility for their own risk management as a result of supervision and in turn this should lead to fewer risks materialising and therefore a more effective legal sector in the public interest.

"The BSB will use this information not only to determine its immediate supervisory response, but as a risk-based regulator, to identify emerging themes that will assist in developing regulatory policy and decision-making."

Read the complete High Impact Supervision Returns report here.

ENDS

Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

About the BSB supervision team

We assure and maintain high standards across the profession by supervising individual barristers, chambers and entities. We take a risk-based approach to supervision which means that we focus our attention in those areas where there is greatest evidence of risk to the public interest and the regulatory objectives. We visit chambers and entities in which barristers practise as part of what we do.

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 1452 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk