08 August 2013

New BSB Handbook to give barristers more freedom and flexibility

Numerous practising restrictions will soon be lifted after the Legal Services Board approved the new Bar Standards Board (BSB) Code of Conduct for barristers.

The revised Code now forms part 2 of the new BSB 'Handbook', which brings together all the BSB's regulations and guidance for barristers into one publication. The new publication will come into effect from January 2014.

Chair of the Bar Standards Board, Baroness Ruth Deech, said: "Superfluous rules have been stripped away and others modernised. The Handbook's approach is less prescriptive, with more focus and guidance on what the outcome of a rule should be, rather than attempting to define how a barrister should act in every situation. As well as offering greater clarity there are also new measures that will empower barristers to change their business models in line with consumer need."

The biggest changes for barristers are:

  • Self-employed barristers will be able to apply for an extension to their practising certificate to conduct litigation. This will relieve clients approaching public access barristers of the task of having to act as a self-representing litigant and conducting the administrative tasks themselves or going through a solicitor.
  • Associations with others. Previous rules preventing self-employed barristers from sharing premises and forming associations with non-barristers have been removed, allowing barristers to pool together risks and resources.
     
  • Reporting serious misconduct by others. Regulated persons will be required to self-report and report others in relation to "serious misconduct".
     
  • Unregistered barristers. The Core Duties - the core elements of professional conduct - will apply to all barristers, including unregistered barristers when they are providing legal services.

Underpinning the new Handbook will be new approaches to both enforcement and supervision - to be introduced in the New Year. The BSB recently consulted on a new risk-based approach to supervision, which, for chambers and entities, proposes on-going assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of their not complying with their regulatory requirements.

The new enforcement strategy will see disciplinary action being reserved for more serious 'professional misconduct' breaches - instances in which an administrative sanction would not be severe enough or where it is in the public interest to do so. Administrative sanctions will be extended to cover breaches of any rule which do not amount to 'professional misconduct'

Baroness Deech continued: "Through developing a risk-based approach to supervision we will be better placed to work with the profession to prevent non-compliance from materialising in the first place or to avoid a recurrence of less serious non-compliance. This will help us to ensure that enforcement action is reserved for the most serious cases of non-compliance which could have considerable consequences for the client and the public interest."

To help the Bar get to grips with the new Handbook, a new electronic version of the Handbook will be available to download from www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/handbook after summer 2013.

This will be compatible with smart phones and tablets; it boasts an improved search and navigation function to guide barristers through the Handbook and can be accessed offline via mobile devices once downloaded. A series of roadshows, podcasts and webinars will also be available from September.

Further information will soon become available from www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/handbook.

-ENDS-


Notes to editors

For more information about risk-based supervision please see here.

Contact: the Bar Standards Board Press Office on 0207 611 1452