Current version of the BSB Handbook

Version 4.3 of the BSB Handbook came into force on 15 October 2019. You can view, download and search it by clicking the button below. 

Version 4.3 of the BSB Handbook

From this page, you can:

  • read the BSB Chair’s introduction to the Handbook;
  • read the release notes for versions 4.0 - 4.3 of the Handbook; and
  • download older versions of the Handbook.

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BSB Chair’s introduction to Handbook

The BSB Handbook has set the standards of conduct for barristers since 2014. It serves as the key regulatory tool through which we can ensure the effective administration of justice is served. Barristers are central to the justice system, and clients depend upon their independence and ability to present their case fearlessly and effectively whilst providing a high standard of service.

We want the Handbook to be accessible for barristers, users of barristers’ services, and the general public. Our aim is that the Handbook should allow consumers to understand what to expect from barristers as well as providing clarity about the regulatory regime with which barristers must comply. But we recognise that, as it has developed over the years, the Handbook has become less easy to use and we have therefore announced a review of the Handbook to ensure that it remains fit for purpose, relevant, and accessible.

The Handbook also ensures that clients of barristers’ services receive the same level of protection and service regardless of the vehicle through which that service is provided. We now regulate a range of entities, including some alternative business structures. The Handbook ensures the public can be confident that the same standards apply to these different business structures as well as individual barristers.

Baroness Tessa Blackstone

Chair of the BSB

Handbook release notes

Version 4.3 (October 2019) - Changes

Version 4.3 of the Handbook includes the new Enforcement Decision Regulations, contained in Part 5:A, which replace the old Complaints Regulations. The new Regulations were designed to improve the way that the BSB assesses and handles reports about persons we regulate.

The Regulations remove the distinction between “complaints” and other types of information received, to allow for a more holistic approach to addressing concerns about those whom we regulate. Information that requires assessment is referred to as a “report”, regardless of its source. A report can be treated as an allegation and formally investigated if it reveals a potential breach of the BSB Handbook.

Two new roles have been created to take regulatory decisions – the Commissioner and the Independent Decision-Making Body – following the disestablishment of the Professional Conduct Committee. The powers and functions of each role are set out in the Regulations, including the decisions available to each role at the end of the investigation of an allegation. The Commissioner’s powers include the power to authorise other persons to exercise any powers, and these authorisations are recorded in the Scheme of Delegations, contained in the Bar Standards Board Governance Manual.

Version 4.2 (September 2019) - Changes

Scope of Practice - Employed Barristers in Non-Authorised Bodies

rS39 sets out who employed barristers in non-authorised bodies are permitted to supply legal services to. They are normally only permitted to supply services to their employer i.e. the body itself, and not clients of their employer.

New guidance (gS8A - gS8C) clarifies that the following arrangements are permissible, and barristers seeking to work in these ways do not need to obtain waivers from rS39:

  • Barristers providing services through a non-authorised body (e.g. an agency or corporate vehicle) whose purpose is to facilitate the supply of in-house legal services to another non-authorised body (e.g. a local authority or corporate body); and
  • Barristers providing services through a non-authorised body (e.g. an agency or corporate vehicle) whose purpose is to facilitate the supply of legal services to an authorised body, or clients of an authorised body. Where services are being provided to clients of an authorised body, those services must be provided by the authorised body and regulated by an approved regulator under the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA) e.g. the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Barristers working in these ways are reminded that reserved legal activities (e.g. exercising rights of audience and conducting litigation) may only be provided in a way that is permitted by s15 of the LSA. s15 details when an employer needs to be authorised to carry on reserved legal activities and prevents those activities from being provided to the public, or a section of the public, by a non-authorised body.

Publication of Sexual Orientation and Religion or Belief Data by Chambers and BSB Entities

rC110.3.s.i has been removed. This removes the restriction on the reporting of diversity data relating to sexual orientation and religion or belief unless all members of the workforce provide consent.

Guidance Changes

  • The separate 'Media Comment Guidance' has been removed. The substantive provisions are now at gC22;
  • The separate 'Guidance on Self-Employed Practice' has been removed and replaced by 'Guidance on Investigating and Collecting Evidence and Taking Witness Statements'. See Code Guidance. The substantive provisions on attendance at police stations are now at gC39;
  • The separate 'Cab Rank Rule Guidance' has been removed. The substantive provisions are now at gC91B; and
  • The separate 'Guidance on Insurance and Limitation of Liability' has been removed. The substantive provisions are now at gC114.

Version 4.1 – July 2019

New Price, Service and Redress Transparency Rules

Version 4.1 of the Handbook includes the new price, service and redress transparency rules for self-employed barristers, chambers, and BSB entities. The new rules are designed to improve the information available to the public before they engage the services of a barrister, and follow recommendations from the Competition and Markets Authority that legal regulators should introduce new requirements in this area. 

The rules require all self-employed barristers, chambers, and BSB-regulated entities to publish specified information about their services, including which types of legal service they provide, their most commonly used pricing models (such as fixed fee or hourly rate), and details of their clients' rights of redress. As set out in the BSB's price transparency policy statement, Public Access barristers providing certain types of services are also required to publish additional price and service information. The BSB has also published guidance to help the profession comply with the new rules.

Version 4.0 – April 2019

New Bar Qualification Rules

The fourth edition of the Handbook includes the new Bar Qualification Rules. Our recent reforms to education and training for the Bar aim to ensure that training to become a barrister is more accessible, affordable, and flexible, and that it maintains the high standards of entry expected at the Bar. At their core, the Bar Qualification Rules set out the minimum training requirements to qualify and practise as a barrister. The rules also bring into force a new system for Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) to deliver one or more of the three components of training (academic, vocational, and pupillage or work-based learning) in accordance with our Authorisation Framework. To coincide with the publication of the Bar Qualification Rules, the BSB has also published a new Bar Qualification Manual. This provides further guidance on the new rules for AETOs, students, pupils, and transferring lawyers.

Standard of Proof Change

The fourth edition of the Handbook also includes the change to the standard of proof used when determining allegations of professional misconduct.  As of 1 April 2019, the standard of proof for such allegations has changed from the criminal standard to the civil standard.  Any conduct occurring on or after 1 April 2019 will be considered applying the civil standard of proof. However, the criminal standard of proof will continue to apply to any conduct that occurred before that date. This change has been made following a public consultation in 2017 and brings the Bar's disciplinary arrangements in line with those of other professional regulators.