19 August 2018

Stakeholder engagement

We think it central to our role as a regulator that we engage with the people interested in or affected by what we do.  We don't think we can promote and protect the public interest unless we interact with a wide range of people to inform our work. This strategy sets out why we think it is important to engage, who we engage with and what kinds of things we do to engage with people.  

Why do we think it is important to engage with stakeholders?

The law, our mission

We think engagement with people interested in or affected by our work is vitally important. The Legal Services Act 2007 requires us to protect and promote both the public interest and the interests of consumers.  Stakeholder engagement is necessary for many organisations and in particular, regulators.  To emphasise this, the Legal Services Act requires us to have regard to the principles under which regulatory activities should be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted only at cases in which action is needed.  Those principles require us to talk to others and understand what is going on around us.  Only by doing so can we obtain the information and input that we need to target our regulatory activity where it is really needed. 

Our mission is to "regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and the public interest". Our vision is "to become a more modern and efficient regulator operating to externally agreed high standards, fulfilling our mission and upholding and promoting the regulatory objectives and professional principles". Meeting these objectives is central to our role.  We do not think we can do those things without input from other people.  An effective stakeholder engagement strategy is therefore of fundamental importance to us. 

Our values

This need to interact with others runs through our values as well.  We have five stated values. They are: integrity, excellence, fairness, respect and value for money. 

We have set out in a little more detail what those values mean for us.  Several aspects mean interaction with other people and organisations is essential.  For example, in relation to "integrity" we say that we are "honest, open, and inspire trust" and that we "consider the social and environmental impact of our action".  In terms of excellence, we say that we are "responsive, accessible, and accountable for our actions".  In order to demonstrate fairness we "value inclusion and diversity".  In order to demonstrate our value of "respect" we "value expertise, learning, and knowledge-sharing" and seek to "foster a collaborative and developmental working environment".  To show that what we do is value for money, we "strive for clarity, simplicity, and straightforwardness". 

Strategic Plan 2016-19

Even more explicitly, one of the strategic aims in our Strategic Plan for 2013-16 is "to promote greater public and professional understanding of and support for our role and mission".  We must get involved with others in order to do this. 

Equality Act duty

Furthermore, we are committed to implementing our Equality Act 2010 duties and pay due regard to:

  • Eliminating unlawful discrimination,
  • Advancing equality of opportunity between different groups; and
  • Fostering good relations between different groups.

The Regulators' Code

Finally, we have specific obligations under the Regulators' Code, which says that:

"Regulators should provide simple and straightforward ways to engage with those they regulate and hear their views. 

Regulators should have mechanisms in place to engage those they regulate, citizens and others to offer views and contribute to the development of their policies and service standards. Before changing policies, practices or service standards, regulators should consider the impact on business and engage with business representatives."

We cannot meet these various obligations, or demonstrate our commitment to our values unless we engage with our stakeholders - and do that in a meaningful way. 

What do we mean by "stakeholders"?

Stakeholders is a broad term and can encompass many people and individuals.  We use that term very widely to include a variety of groups.  Within that we talk about "consumers". When we talk about consumers, we mean to include more than just those receiving or seeking access to legal services.  We include all those affected by the justice system, such as litigants in person, witnesses, victims and other people involved in proceedings that also involve barristers. 

We have categorised the range of stakeholders into a number of groups.  We use the term "organisations" as a catch all here.  In reality the areas comprise a combination of formal organisations, individuals and less formal groups. Our groupings of stakeholders is:

  • Organisations that we must work with in order to meet our statutory obligations, eg the Ministry of Justice, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, the Legal Services Board, the Legal Ombudsman, the Bar Council
  • Organisations that we must work with on an operational level, eg education providers, the Legal Ombudsman, the Higher and Professional education community
  • Intermediary groups that represent legal consumers, eg Victim Support and Citizens' Advice
  • Organisations with powerful voices (in relation to either the public or the Bar), eg politicians, government, academics, legal commentators, news organisations, the Judiciary
  • Organisations that can influence other parts of the legal profession, eg the SRA, CILEx Regulation and the other legal regulators
  • Organisations that can influence the Bar and so aid the implementation of our regulatory objectives, eg Circuit Leaders, Bar Council leaders, the Inns of Court
  • The general public
  • The Bar

What will we do to engage with stakeholders?

We tailor what we do to the needs of each of these groups.  For instance, we have scheduled regular meetings in place with the organisations that we must work with in order to meet our statutory obligations, such as the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Board.  Each of the groups and what we do at present in relation to each of them is shown in the table below:

Group

Type of interaction

Organisations that we must work with in order to meet our statutory obligations

Regular formal meetings with Chair, Vice Chair, Board member, Director General and Senior Management Team.

Organisations that we must work with on an operational level

Regular formal meetings at senior level.

A lot of day to day interaction with staff at all levels including multi-agency working groups. 

Intermediary groups that represent legal consumers

Regular meetings with staff and representatives.

We regularly consult with them on policy matters using a variety of methods including roundtable discussions and focus groups.

This is an area we are looking to strengthen.

Organisations with powerful voices

Regular meetings.

We invite organisations to submit on our consultations. 

We attend various conferences and other fora, both speaking and participating

Organisations that can influence other parts of the legal profession

Regular meetings at senior level. 

Day to day interaction between staff.

 

Organisations that can influence the Bar

Regular meetings at senior level.

Targeted communications including asking for input to formal consultations.

The public

The BSB website and Legal Choices website are presently our primary means of interacting with the public.

Our consultations are available publicly giving everyone a chance to contribute to our work.

The Bar

Regular meetings are held at a variety of levels.

We issue an email to the whole profession monthly. 

The BSB website provides additional information. 

We issue targeted communications to the profession and they are always invited to submit on consultations.

We offer road shows, focus groups and opportunities to participate in working groups as well. 

 Areas in which we want to improve

The diverse consumer voice- As set out above, when we talk about consumers we mean a wide group of people.  It includes those who obtain the services of a barrister.  However, we also think it means others involved in the legal system and affected by what barristers do, such as litigants in person, victims and witnesses.  We recognise that we need to listen more to the voices of consumers and other people affected by the work that barristers do.  We appreciate that barristers, consumers and the public have different ways of communicating; and we need to build a bridge so both the profession and clients can understand each other better.  That means that we may also need to interact and listen differently. We are working specifically on our consumer engagement in order to strengthen our ability to listen and work with groups other than barristers.  A significant part of this is listening and learning from diverse groups, including for instance, BME and other protected characteristic and vulnerable groups.  This commitment is also expressed in the BSB diversity strategy.  

Simplifying our information and improving how we say things- Wherever possible, we try to identify the main points of interest to anyone we are interacting with.  We think that this helps make our discussions meaningful for both us and whoever we are speaking with. Our work can often be quite complicated and technical.  That means we have to work hard to express things in simple language and to make it meaningful for the reader or listener.  We want people to engage with us so we need to make that as easy as possible - we think simple and clear language will help. Thinking about things from the perspective of the listener or reader will also help.  We are putting particular efforts into approaching what we do from the consumer/user perspective.  This is a work in progress for us. We hope that our stakeholders will help us by providing feedback so we can see where we are becoming more clear, simple and straightforward in what we do - and where we still need to improve further.      

Different ways of engaging- We are trying to offer as many different ways of engaging with us as we can. For instance, we issue formal consultation documents but recognise that not all organisations will find it easy to produce a written document in return, especially if there are many issues to cover. So, we offer to meet with anyone to discuss their views.  We will then produce documentation to reflect those discussions instead of the traditional written submission being required.  Of course, whoever we speak with in this way will see what we write and agree that it accurately covers what was said.  We often specifically ask if organisations would like to engage with us in this way and we would always seek to do this if someone asked us to.  This is just one example of how we are seeking to do things differently.  We are working towards using a wide range of methods across all types of engagement. For instance, in recent times we have held one to one meetings, round table discussions and facilitated focus groups.  Our aim is to provide many different ways of engaging with us so that we get a wide range of input into our work - from all of our stakeholders. 

When will we engage?

We seek to engage on a regular basis with as many groups as possible.  We want to have established relationships with as many organisations as we can so that raising issues and discussing matters is done within an ongoing relationship.  We think that this is a sensible and productive way of engaging for everyone.  We always offer a public consultation on changes to policy or rules so that everyone can see what we are doing and have an opportunity to contribute to our work. 

When will we engage with others' initiatives?

In the same way that we look to other people because they have a voice or an influence in relation to our work, other organisations ask us to contribute to their initiatives as well. Often we have a common interest with those organisations or people. We will always listen to what others ask of us and will contribute whenever we can, time and resources permitting. 

What are our plans?

Our main focus in the coming 12-18 months is on building our consumer engagement and simplifying our information.  We are planning our consumer engagement programme at the moment and will publish further details of those plans in 2015.  While those plans will likely focus on our external activities, we are also working on building our staff capacity by creating guidance for staff on how to engage with consumers, providing training in writing for consumers and generally developing greater awareness and understanding of the consumer perspective.  We have a project underway to improve the way in which information about our complaints and disciplinary system is described on our website.  We want to make that aspect as easy to access and understand as we can, especially for those who may be thinking about making a complaint. Additionally the BSB equality objectives make a commitment to inviting diverse groups to contribute and inform our future diversity programme through principles of co-production.