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Regulatory Updates in 2021

April 2021

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

Last month, we published our annual Business Plan for 2021-22. It sets out our main priorities for the year ahead and our budget.

The Plan explains how we will prioritise our core regulatory work such as analysing the impact of the pandemic, overseeing of education and training requirements, monitoring standards of conduct and compliance with our rules (including the new transparency rules), and ensuring that everyone we authorise to practise is competent to do so.

Alongside the core work, we shall focus on a small number of projects addressing significant risks to our regulatory objectives.  This includes our work with the Bar Tribunals Adjudication Service (BTAS) to review the Sanctions Guidance. BTAS began this work last year and the review  will cover all areas of professional misconduct including sexual harassment.

Later this month, we will be issuing a joint consultation with BTAS about the Sanctions Guidance and we urge everyone with an interest in this matter to respond and to share their views with us.

You can read more about our 2021-22 Business Plan in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

One of the effects of the response to the health emergency for the BSB has been a significant increase in the number of people applying for authorisation and/or exemptions and waivers from our rules. Last month, we launched a new webpage to provide updates for those waiting to hear from us about their applications. We are sorry that these are currently taking longer to process than usual but we are working hard to deal with the current backlog as soon as possible.

Finally for this month, do not forget that the deadline for our annual Authorisation to Practice process was 31 March. If you have still not completed this important regulatory process and have not yet renewed your practising certificate for 2021-22, then you must do so by 30 April or cease practising. If you fail to complete the renewal process by this date, you will no longer appear on our Barristers' Register and you will not be authorised to practise.

BSB sets priorities for the next 12 months

Last month, we published our annual Business Plan for 2021-22 in which we set out our main priorities.

The Plan includes details of our budget for the year ahead. It reflects the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on both the profession and our own work.

Our 2021-22 Business Plan outlines how, where necessary, we will temporarily put on hold some of our longer-term policy development projects in order to prioritise our core regulatory work and our analysis of the impact of the health emergency. This core work involves overseeing the education and training requirements for becoming a barrister, monitoring the standards of conduct of barristers and compliance with the rules in our Handbook, including the new transparency rules, and ensuring that everyone we authorise to practise is competent to do so. 

The policy development which will remain important during 2021-22 and which is explained in more detail in the Plan reflects our analysis of risk to the regulatory objectives. Consistent with those risks, the plan targets:

  • continuing work to raise standards at the Bar;
  • completing the final implementation of Bar training reforms;
  • working with the Bar Tribunals Adjudication Service to review their Sanctions Guidance;  
  • promoting equality and access to justice including tackling bullying, discrimination and harassment at the Bar; and
  • ensuring the future supply of pupillage places, and hence of barristers, following a big reduction in response to the health emergency in 2020.

2021-22 is the third year in our  current three-year Strategic Plan which was first published in March 2019. The focus over this period has been to ensure that recent policy initiatives, such as reforms to the rules governing Bar training and to disciplinary and enforcement processes, have been successfully implemented and evaluated. This remains the case despite the effects of the pandemic.

New Service Update Webpage launched for Authorisations

We have launched a new webpage to provide updates for those applying for authorisation and/or exemptions and waivers from our rules about when they can expect to hear from us.  The page has been developed following an increase over the past few months in the number of enquiries received. 

The page is intended to support you by providing guidance on when you can expect to hear from us regarding applications and other documentation submitted to us. 

It will also advise you of any changes or anticipated days to our service, so you will not need to contact us with queries about when your application will be processed.  

Visit the page to view our current processing timetable and information relating to AETOs, Pupillage and Entity Regulation. 

BSB seeks representatives to expand Tribunal Representation Panel

We seek applications to join the Tribunal Representation Panel (TRP), the independent disciplinary tribunals for barristers facing charges of professional misconduct as well as other hearings.

Applications from barristers’ chambers or other authorised organisations should demonstrate a strong track record of regulatory disciplinary work, and experience across a range of seniority but we particularly seek experienced juniors with up to 10 years’ Call.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on 7 May 2021 with interviews taking place during the week of 14 June 2021.

The successful applicants will join 11 Kings Bench Walk on the Panel, who were appointed in January 2020.

If your chambers or organisation is interested in joining the TRP, please read the full Application Pack.

Are you keen to make a contribution to the regulation of barristers?

We are seeking barrister and lay members for our Independent Decision-Making Body. This is the second year of our new processes for taking regulatory decisions and we want to encourage a diverse range of people to support us in our ongoing modernisation of our enforcement processes.

The Independent Decision-Making Body (IDB) is a non-executive body responsible for taking all our regulatory decisions that require independent input, and has been operating since September 2019. It consists of a pool of suitably qualified decision makers from which panels of lay and barrister members are formed to take decisions on individual cases – panels of three are used for authorisations and five for disciplinary cases. Most of the decisions for which the IDB is responsible are in relation to whether disciplinary action should be taken where breaches of the professional obligations, as set out in the BSB Handbook, may have occurred. However, the IDB is also responsible for, amongst other things, taking decisions in relation to appeals against executive decisions not to grant waivers from the Handbook requirements or decisions not to authorise or license a body to provide legal services. 

The work of an IDB member will include preparing for, chairing and/or attending Panel meetings, attending training sessions as required and ensuring that they stay up to date with issues related to the regulation of the Bar. 

We are also recruiting to the position of Vice Chair of the IDB. This position, in addition to the above functions, will be responsible with the Chair of the IDB for: providing the leadership of the IDB; carrying out the appraisals process of IDB members; providing feedback on panel member performance; and taking limited decisions outside panel meetings.  

For both the positions of Vice Chair and those for ordinary members of the IDB we welcome applications from barristers and lay people with experience across a range of practice areas, both executive and non-executive. Knowledge of higher legal education and/or qualification as a barrister are also sought. 

Appointments will be for an initial period of up to three years, subject to satisfactory appraisal on completion of 18 months’ and three years’ service. Candidates are welcome to apply for both positions and should indicate which role(s) they are applying for in their covering letter, and address the corresponding competencies contained in the application pack.

Remuneration for all members of the IDB is paid at a flat rate of £308 per day or £154 per half day (plus VAT, if relevant) – this covers both attendance at meetings and preparation time.

Where physical meetings are necessary or desirable they will be hosted from London, but we encourage applications from those located elsewhere in the country. All IDB panel meetings have been held remotely in the past year and we will continue to provide these facilities. However, members may be requested, from time to time, to attend events in London for which reasonable expenses will be paid.  

For more information and details on how to apply, please visit the About Us section of our website www.barstandardsboard.org.uk. Candidates should provide a covering letter outlining how they meet the competencies required for the position(s), together with a brief CV.

We welcome applications from all people who meet the role requirements regardless of background and particularly encourage those from groups that are currently underrepresented in our independent decision-making processes such as women, and people from minority ethnic groups, people who are LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities.

If you have any queries, please contact Rebecca Forbes, Head of Governance and Corporate Services, in the first instance: RForbes@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk

For more information on how to apply, please review the candidate pack. Candidates should provide a covering letter outlining how they meet the competencies required for the position(s), together with a brief CV, supporting details form and equality and diversity monitoring form (optional). The candidate pack can be found on our website.

Please send completed applications to: BSBapplications@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk

Closing date for applications:  9am Monday 3 May 2021.

Interviews will take place in London or via remote participation in the week commencing 28 June 2021.  The date may change, including the possible addition of other dates, depending on interview panel and applicant availability.

It is anticipated that mandatory training will take place in September 2021.

Have we got correct details of your practice address?

Please ensure that you have given us your correct practice address in accordance with rS69 of our Handbook. If your practice address changes, you must inform our Records Department within 28 days, you can also update your details using the MyBar portal.

Give us your feedback

If you have any thoughts about how we can improve the Regulatory Update or what content you would like to read, please email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

March 2021

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

This year’s annual Authorisation to Practise (AtP) process is now open. It is therefore time to renew your practising certificate.

For those of you who have completed AtP before, you will know that as well as paying the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF), it involves making a number of regulatory declarations. These include providing certain details about your practice such as the declarations required for Youth Court work and those required for anti-money laundering purposes. You will also be asked to confirm that you completed your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements during 2020. Do please complete the diversity data questions when completing AtP as your answers help us better to understand how different groups are faring at the Bar.

As we are very aware that many barristers’ incomes have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, we have held our budget down as far as is reasonably practical taking into account our regulatory obligations and to reflect the pressures on the Bar. This is in anticipation that many barristers may be in lower PCF income bands this year and therefore the money we generate from our share of the PCF is likely to be less than in previous years. We will be publishing our 2021-22 Business Plan and budget later this month.

For more information about the 2021 AtP process, please refer to our website.

In the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update, you can read more about the review of the BTAS Sanctions Guidance which is being taken forward by the BTAS secretariat together with the BSB with guidance from the BTAS Strategic Advisory Board.  The intention is to undertake a first public consultation over a period of six weeks beginning in April seeking views on proposals to amend the recommended ranges of sanctions for specific types of breaches.   In the light of that consultation, the full Guidance will then be re-drafted and submitted for a further ten-week consultation which it is intended will begin in July. We expect the revised Guidance to come into force in November.  We very much hope that all those with an interest in these important matters will take part in the consultations and give their views.

The online edition of Regulatory Update also reproduces our recent blog on how we intend to encourage innovation and the use of new technology in our regulation of the Bar. This is important as we want to ensure that regulation adapts to enable the profession and the public to benefit from the opportunities which technology can bring.

Finally, the online edition also contains information about our recent report on the diversity of our Board members and our staff.

2021 Authorisation to Practise process now open: it’s time to renew your practising certificate

The annual Authorisation to Practise (AtP) process is now open. AtP is the process by which you must make a number of regulatory declarations and pay the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF) in order to renew your practising certificate.

Your PCF depends on your income in the preceding year. So, in 2021 it is determined by your earnings in 2020. As we know that many barristers’ incomes have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, both the BSB and the Bar Council – who take shares of the money raised by the PCF – have budgeted accordingly in anticipation that many barristers may be in lower PCF income bands this year. The level of PCF due from each barrister in each income band is the same as it was in 2020.

The Bar Council – who is responsible for collecting the PCF – have confirmed that those who pay their PCF via “block payments” may again do so by paying in two instalments with a minimum 50% first instalment due by 31 March and the second balance payment due by 30 September.

When completing AtP, you must make a number of regulatory declarations to us including providing certain details about your practice such as the declarations required for Youth Court work, immigration supervision, and for anti-money laundering purposes. You must also confirm compliance with your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements during 2020

Please complete the AtP process via the MyBar portal by 31 March 2021. Detailed instructions on how to complete this year’s process should have been emailed directly to you or your practice.

More information about the 2021 AtP process is available on our website.

BSB and BTAS provide more details about the review of BTAS Sanctions Guidance

On 29 January 2021, we announced with the Bar Tribunals Adjudication Service (BTAS) that the current Sanctions Guidance covering professional misconduct has been under review since last year and that proposals from the review will be published and subject to consultation. 

The review is being taken forward by the BTAS secretariat together with the BSB. It will draw on guidance from the BTAS Strategic Advisory Board, which exists to provide an independent source of advice and challenge to BTAS. The Strategic Advisory Board has both lay and professional members and its terms of reference and membership are on the BTAS website.

We can now give more details as to how the changes to the Sanctions Guidance will be subject to consultation with both the Bar and with the wider public.

The intention is to undertake a first public consultation over a period of six weeks beginning in April 2021, seeking views on proposals to amend the recommended ranges of sanctions for specific types of breaches.

In the light of that consultation, the full Guidance will then be re-drafted and submitted for a further ten-week consultation which it is intended will begin in July 2021. We expect the revised Guidance to come into force in November 2021.

We very much hope that all those with an interest in these important matters will take part in the consultations and give their views. The consultation documents will be published on the BTAS website and Press Notices will be issued.

Anyone who wishes to register their interest in the consultation in advance should please email info@tbtas.org.uk.

Bar Standards Board publishes report on diversity of its members and staff

We have published our annual report, Diversity of BSB Staff and Board Members 2020. It follows the publication of the Diversity of the Bar report 2020, which showed that while diversity in the profession was gradually increasing, further progress was needed.

The report demonstrates our commitment to our legal obligations as an employer under the Equality Act 2010. We also remain firmly committed to encouraging a strong, independent, diverse and effective legal profession and to meeting our equality duties in every aspect of our work.

The data were captured on 1 December 2020, with staff data deriving from an anonymous and voluntary survey, and data relating to Board members being collected and analysed annually.

For the twelve Board members of the BSB, the key findings of the report are:

  • seven members were female and five were male;
  • ten members were from a White background, with the others from another ethnic group; and
  • of the eight members who responded to the question about disability, the most frequently given responses was “no disability”.

For BSB staff, of which there were 83 at the time the data were captured, the key findings of the report are:

  • 65% of all staff were female and 35% were male, and within the top four (of seven) seniority grades, 53% of staff were female and 45% were male.
  • 34% of BSB staff were from a minority ethnic background, compared to an estimate of 13.3% of the working age population of England and Wales. In the four most senior grades, 66% of staff were White English/Welsh/Northern Irish/Scottish/British, 9% identified as being from another white ethnic group, 16% were Asian British, and 9% were Mixed/Multiple Ethnic Background.
  • 6% of staff declared a disability, compared to an estimate that around 11.3% of the working age population have a declared disability

You can read the full Diversity of BSB Staff and Board Members 2020 report on our website.

Encouraging innovation and the use of new technology

At the BSB, one of our commitments is to focus on the use of technology in the profession. We understand the important role innovation and technology could play in improving access to justice.  We would like the profession to adapt and take advantage of the opportunities this brings and are keen to play our part in encouraging the use of technology where it can bring benefits. Being a risk-based regulator, it is important that we understand the risks and opportunities that can arise from technological innovation and, where necessary, act quickly to mitigate any risks.

This short blog highlights some of the ways in which we are seeking to gain insight into the use of technology, helping us to understand how new ideas can be translated into reality, and ensuring that regulation adapts to facilitate the opportunities, while managing the risks.

Through our engagement with LawtechUK: This is a Government backed initiative aimed at supporting digital transformation of the UK legal sector. As part of this initiative, the BSB is working alongside other legal services regulators to provide regulatory support to those innovators who were successful in the pilot phase of this initiative. A list of the projects and more on this initiative can be found here. We are excited to be working on this initiative and look forward to seeing what opportunities this could bring to improve access to justice, while at the same time considering what they might mean for the Bar and for the BSB itself. 

Flexibility in applications of rules: One of the ways we can facilitate innovation, is through keeping our rules flexible. As we review our Code of Conduct, we aim to remove unnecessary prescription to facilitate different ways of thinking to deliver the right outcomes for the consumer and public interest. If our current rules are acting as a block to innovation or the use of technology, we can consider granting a waiver. More on waivers and how you could apply for one can be found [here].

Ongoing engagement with barristers’ practices and further research: last year we sent out a request to barristers’ chambers asking them to answer a range of questions about their practice. Our Regulatory Return, as this is known, included questions relating to the current and future use of technology, as well as the perceived risks and barriers to the take up of technology. We are looking forward to hearing what is happening in Chambers and to consider where we might be able to do more to enable innovation and better use of technology.

If you wish to discuss our work on technology and innovation, please contact policy@barstandardsboard.org.uk

Have we got correct details of your practice address?

Please ensure that you have given us your correct practice address in accordance with rS69 of our Handbook. If your practice address changes, you must inform our Records Department within 28 days, you can also update your details using the MyBar portal.

Give us your feedback

If you have any thoughts about how we can improve the Regulatory Update or what content you would like to read, please email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

February 2021

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

At the end of January, we published our annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that while the profession continued to become increasingly diverse in 2020, there is still more that needs to be done before the Bar can say that it truly reflects the society it serves at every level of seniority.

You can read more about the latest Diversity Report – including, for example, how different minority ethnic groups have varied levels of representation at the Bar – in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

The number of barristers providing us with their diversity data increased last year but we should very much like more of you to do so in order to help us in our work of promoting equality and diversity at the Bar. The annual Authorisation to Practise (AtP) process is due to begin later this month. Do please complete the diversity data questions when renewing your practising certificates for the year ahead. We collect this information not because we wish to intrude on the privacy of individual barristers but in order better to understand how different groups are faring at the Bar.

A widely reported aspect of the 2020 Diversity Report was the figures it contained about the fall in the number of pupillages starting last year due to the pandemic. We have subsequently published a more detailed report which shows that pupillage registrations were down 35% in 2020. The report suggests that many pupillage organisations have delayed the start of their pupillages by a few months as opposed to cancelling them outright, and that the waiver scheme we introduced in May 2020 has had a positive effect in allowing many pupillages to go ahead which might not otherwise have done so. That said, we expect the pandemic to continue to have an adverse effect on the number of pupillages this year and next. You can read more about our report on the impact of COVID-19 on pupillages in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

In case you missed it, on 29 January, we published a joint statement with The Bar Tribunals Adjudication Service (BTAS) about current concerns from the public and the profession at the level of sanctions imposed in cases of sexual misconduct. The sanctions imposed fall within the current Sanctions Guidance which covers the whole range of professional misconduct. The Guidance has been under review since last year. Proposals from the review will be published and subject to consultation with a view to having updated Guidance in place in the summer.

In January, we published updated Anti-Money Laundering (AML) guidance on our website. The guidance is produced by the Legal Sector AML Group (of which we are a member). You can read more about this in the online version of Regulatory Update. When you apply for or renew your practising certificate via the AtP process, you are asked to declare whether you carry out work that falls within the scope of the Money Laundering Regulations. So please familiarise yourself with the new guidance.

Completing AtP will also require you to declare that you fulfilled your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements in 2020. We know that completing CPD remains very difficult during the pandemic but this month’s online Regulatory Update contains a short list of some areas for development and training that may be useful for you to consider when choosing your CPD for 2021.

Diversity at the Bar is gradually improving but more progress is needed, says BSB report

On 29 January, we published our annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that the profession became increasingly diverse in 2020 and that a greater proportion of barristers disclosed their demographic data.

While diversity of the profession continues to improve, there is still more that needs to be done so that the Bar reflects the society it serves at every level of seniority.

For the first time, the report uses the term ‘minority ethnic groups’ rather than ‘BAME’ and provides more disaggregated data about ethnicity at the Bar in order to reflect the varied experiences of barristers from different minority ethnic groups.

Some of the key findings[1] include:

  • At 60.9 per cent, men still outnumber women at 38.2 per cent of the practising Bar. The percentage of women at the Bar overall increased by 0.2 percentage points during the last year (or 0.4%).
  • The percentage of practising barristers from minority ethnic groups overall increased by 0.5 percentage points (or 3.7%) to 14.1 per cent, slightly exceeding the estimate of 13.3 per cent of the working age population in England and Wales.
  • Different minority ethnic groups have varied levels of representation at the Bar.  The report presents disaggregated data for different minority ethnic groups:
  • Asian/Asian British barristers made up 7.5 per cent of the practising Bar in December 2020 – an increase of 0.3 percentage points (or 4.4%) year on year. This compares with 5.6 percent of the working age population who identify as Asian/Asian British.
  • The proportion of practising barristers who are Black/Black British rose by 0.05 percentage points (or 1.4%) to 3.2 per cent in 2020; this compares with around 3.4 per cent of the working age population.
  • 3.3 per cent of the practising Bar are from a Mixed/Multiple ethnic background as compared with around 1.5 per cent of the working age population.
  • Male QCs still outnumber female QCs, but the percentage of female QCs increased from 16.2 per cent in December 2019 to 16.8 per cent (0.6 percentage points or 3.7%) in December 2020.
  • The percentage of QCs from minority ethnic backgrounds has increased by 0.7 percentage points (or 8.6%) year on year to 8.8 per cent.
  • The percentage of female pupil barristers was equal to the percentage of male pupils. Although the percentage of female pupils has fallen by around four percentage points since 2019 (or 7.8%), this may be an anomaly resulting from an exceptional year in 2020.
  • The proportion of pupil barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds increased by 3.7 percentage points (or 19.4%) to 22.9 per cent in 2020. This is the highest proportion of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds, and the largest year on year increase in this statistic, seen since the first Diversity at the Bar Report in 2015.
  • Of the 56.9 per cent who provided information on disability status to us, only 6.3 per cent disclosed a disability. This is substantially lower than the percentage of disabled people in the employed working age UK population estimated at 11.3 per cent.

The response rate amongst barristers disclosing their diversity information increased across all categories in 2020 except for a very small decrease for gender which was already over 99 percent.

We have a statutory responsibility to monitor and promote equality and diversity both as an employer and as the regulator of barristers in England and Wales.

 

[1] .  In each category percentages are expressed as including those barristers who did not provide data except in the case of ethnicity and disability where they are excluded. For the latter, this is in order to make more like for like comparisons with national level data which also excludes non-responses.

Pupillage registrations were down 35% in 2020, and the impact of the pandemic will continue in 2021

On 3 February, we published an updated report on the impact of COVID-19 on pupillage places at the Bar of England and Wales.

The report shows that there were 386 pupillages registered with us in 2020. This compares with 592 pupillages registered in 2019: a fall of 35%. The impact of the pandemic on the profession looks set to affect pupillage numbers in 2021, although recruitment levels are picking up. As of 19 January 2021, 172 organisations were advertising pupillages on the Gateway. By way of contrast, 159 organisations had new pupils starting with them during 2020.

The report suggests that the waiver scheme we introduced in May 2020 has had a positive effect, allowing 95 pupillages to go ahead which might not otherwise have done so. The scheme allows the first part of pupillage to start before a candidate has completed the vocational component of Bar training.

The impact of delayed start dates is now starting to show in the statistics for 2021, as January registrations are higher than usual. There were 51 pupillages registered in January 2021, compared to 15 in January 2020.

Much of the information in the report comes from our ongoing engagement with the pupillage organisations we authorise about the effects of the pandemic on the supply of pupillages.

Pupils represent the future of the Bar and provide assurance that consumers will have access to high quality legal representation into the future. We shall therefore want to work closely with the Bar Council and with the rest of the profession to see how we can maintain pupillage numbers in these challenging times. We are pleased that our waiver scheme seems to be helping and that the figures suggest that many pupillages have been delayed, not cancelled. We also welcome the initiative by some leading commercial chambers to support criminal pupillages which have been affected by the health emergency. But these initiatives, welcome though they are, may not be enough on their own and we want to consider with the Bar Council and the profession other options for supporting pupillages.

We will soon publish our wider findings on the impact of COVID-19 on the profession (ie the impacts beyond pupillages). This will follow the completion of the first part of the 2020-21 Regulatory Return which was issued to a selection of around 350 chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners in September. The first part of the Return focused only on the impact of the health emergency and responses were due back to us on 4 January 2021. (The rest of the Regulatory Return does not need to be completed until 31 March.)

The full report on the impact of COVID-19 on pupillages is available at: [LINK]

CPD 2021

We know that completing CPD during a pandemic is much more difficult, but we hope that you are now turning your mind to the CPD that you want to do in 2021. Details on what you are required to do and guidance on how to do it is available on our website.

It is a matter for you to decide upon the areas of your practice where you want to focus your CPD. To help you, we have identified some areas for development and training that we would encourage you to have regard to when choosing your CPD. They relate to aspects of practice and professional life as a barrister that we see as being particularly important over the coming 12 months.

Technology

COVID-19 has given rise to many people needing to master new technology, including barristers. Increases in virtual hearings and meetings operated via different platforms, present different challenges for you. Similarly, the skills required to be effective as an advocate in remote court cases or in managing virtual conferences with clients can be different. Being able to communicate effectively and to represent clients, many of whom are vulnerable, brings with it different challenges and expectations.  You are encouraged therefore to think about whether they would benefit from additional training in how to be effective in operating in an increasingly virtual world.

Equality and diversity

Understanding what diversity and inclusion means and how they apply to both barristers and their chambers is a key facet of practising at the Bar. We set out our expectations in our Equality Rules and issued our statement on anti-racism for the Bar at the end of last year. Both the rules and the statement are available on our website. We believe that you should periodically refresh your understanding of equality and diversity through specific training. That training should look at, amongst other things, what good equality and diversity practice looks like, dignity and inclusion at work and discrimination.

Data protection and information security

With more remote working and greater reliance on electronic management and storage of data and files, as well as increased use of email for correspondence, it is important that barristers are familiar with their responsibilities under data protection legislation. They need to understand how to keep information secure and ensure compliance with GDPR. Guidance is available on our website but we would recommend that barristers keep their knowledge up to date through regular training.

Pupil supervisor training

The Inns deliver mandatory training for barristers who are pupil supervisors. This covers the general expectations placed on pupil supervisors including their regulatory and ethical responsibilities to their pupils. Critical to effectiveness as a pupil supervisor is the ability to give constructive feedback to pupils and to provide them with guidance and direction so that they make the progress they need to complete their pupillage satisfactorily. Giving (and receiving) feedback can be challenging and is likely to be particularly difficult where, as now, many pupillages are being managed and supervised remotely. The pastoral and other support that chambers routinely provide to pupils is less easily replicated virtually and pupils may feel isolated as a result. The pupil supervisor plays an important role in helping pupils achieve a positive start to their careers at the Bar. Given the challenges of remote supervision of pupils, barristers may feel that they could benefit from training in how to give feedback constructively and in how to be effective in managing their responsibilities to their pupil. 

Training in all of the areas highlighted above is readily available. We will also share this note with the Inns, the Bar Council and other training providers so that they can consider further or modified training for barristers.

Our joint statement with BTAS about the review of BTAS Sanctions Guidance

On 29 January, we published a joint statement with The Bar Tribunals Adjudication Service (BTAS). The statement said:

“We are aware of current concern from the public and the profession at the level of sanctions imposed in cases of sexual misconduct. The sanctions imposed fall within the current Sanctions Guidance. This Guidance covers the whole range of professional misconduct and has been under review since last year. Proposals from the review will be published and subject to consultation with a view to having updated Guidance in place in the summer.”

Updated guidance on the Money Laundering Regulations

The Legal Sector AML Group (comprising legal sector regulators and representative bodies) has completed an extensive review of the Anti-Money Laundering guidance. The new guidance replaces the previous version and can be found on our website. It builds upon the guidance previously published and incorporates amendments implemented via The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019 and The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020.

The Legal Sector AML Group has also been working on an additional section that will provide tailored guidance for the Bar, which will be published shortly.  In the meantime, the Bar Council’s guidance is still available, with some case studies to further assist barristers, chambers and BSB entities in applying the Regulations.

When you apply for or renew your practising certificate, you are asked to declare whether you carry out work that falls within the scope of the Money Laundering Regulations. We have compiled a set of FAQs to help you, when making your declaration, in understanding your obligations and whether the work that you do falls within the scope of the Money Laundering Regulations. They can also be found on the MyBar portal when you renew your practising certificate. Please read these FAQs carefully. It is essential that you make an accurate declaration and that you do not declare that you do work under the Regulations when you do not; this distorts the risk profile of the Bar and leads to additional regulatory costs.

Annual Authorisation to Practise process

The 2021 Authorisation to Practise (AtP) period is due to start in later this month. During AtP, all practising barristers will be required to renew their annual practising certificates and to pay the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF). We will provide more information about AtP next month, including details about the PCF rate bands for 2021-22. The Records team will be in contact with you directly when AtP opens.

Have we got correct details of your practice address?

Please ensure that you have given us your correct practice address in accordance with rS69 of our Handbook. If your practice address changes, you must inform our Records Department within 28 days, you can also update your details using the MyBar portal.

Give us your feedback

If you have any thoughts about how we can improve the Regulatory Update or what content you would like to read, please email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

January 2021

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

Let me begin by wishing you a Happy New Year although we of course remain acutely conscious of the challenges which we all continue to face. You can stay in touch with the latest information from the BSB in relation to the latest response to the health emergency by reading our regularly-updated statement on our website.

In spite of the pandemic we must continue to perform our regulatory duties and an updated version of the BSB Handbook came into force on 31 December 2020 at the end of the transition period following the UK’s exit from the EU. The changes in the latest version affect Registered European Lawyers (RELs) practising at the Bar of England and Wales, and European lawyers seeking to be admitted to the Bar. The amendments also implemented provisions relating to the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement, which was agreed by the UK and Switzerland in 2018. You can read more about this in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

If your organisation had made any recent changes to pupillages or is thinking of making any in light of the latest national lockdown, please remember to contact us to discuss them. Also, please don’t forget that the minimum pupillage award increased on 1 January 2021 to £18,960 per annum for pupillages in London and £16,601 per annum for pupillages outside London.

Finally, I would like to welcome Andrew Mitchell QC as the new Vice Chair of the BSB for the next three years. Andrew took up his position on 1 January 2021 having served on the Board for six years and prior to that as a member of our Professional Conduct Committee for four years, Andrew brings a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to regulating the Bar in the public interest.

BSB Handbook updated at the end of the transition period following the UK’s exit from the EU

An updated version of the BSB Handbook come into force at the end of the transition period following the UK’s exit from the EU. The changes affect Registered European Lawyers (RELs) practising at the Bar of England and Wales, and European lawyers seeking to be admitted to the Bar. They also implement provisions relating to the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement, which was agreed by the UK and Switzerland in 2018.

The new rules have applied since 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020.

We have been in frequent direct communication with those affected by these changes including RELs and those barristers with an EU address as their primary practising address. Any barristers who are habitually resident in an EU member state may find that their insurance arrangements are affected by the end of the transition period and should contact us or Bar Mutual urgently to discuss their situation.

You can read more about our regulation and the UK’s exit from the EU on our website.

Annual Authorisation to Practise process

The 2021 Authorisation to Practise (AtP) period will start in February. During AtP, all practising barristers will be required to renew their annual practising certificates and to pay the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF). We will provide more information about AtP next month, including details about the PCF rate bands for 2021-22. The Records team will be in contact with you directly when AtP opens.

Andrew Mitchell QC appointed as Vice Chair of the Bar Standards Board

Last month, we announced that Andrew Mitchell QC has been appointed as our new Vice Chair for the next three years, taking effect from 1 January 2021.

The announcement follows the appointment of Naomi Ellenbogen QC as a High Court Judge, which required her to relinquish the role of Vice Chair of the BSB in November 2020, a position she had held since 2016.

Having served on the Board for six years and prior to that as a member of our Professional Conduct Committee for four years, Andrew brings a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to regulating the Bar in the public interest.

New minimum funding rate for pupillage from January 2021

The minimum pupillage award is set annually, having regard to the Living Wage Foundation’s hourly rate recommendations, which are announced in November each year. The annual increase applies from January each year to all pupils, regardless of when they started pupillage. Monthly payments to pupils must be adjusted accordingly. The rate for the minimum pupillage award that applies from 1 January 2021 is £18,960 per annum for pupillages in London and £16,601 per annum for pupillages outside London. You can read more about this in the newly redesigned Bar Qualification Manual.

Future changes to the UK telephone network

We have been contacted by the Legal Services Board to ask us to spread awareness of significant changes being made by Ofcom and Openreach to the telephony network that will have implications for legal service providers.

In summary, the current telephony network is over 35 years old and is to be upgraded. This upgrade has been happening for some years now, but the old telephony network will close by the end of 2025. The older analogue network supports devices that have been around for some time, such as fax machines, that won’t necessarily work when the network is digital. The simple rule of thumb is that when the telephone line is changed to digital or “ALL IP”, it will need any device that currently plugs into a wall socket, to be plugged into the broadband router instead. It is possible that adaptors will become available on the market that will connect these devices to the broadband router, but Openreach advises that the efficacy and long-term durability of these solutions cannot be guaranteed.

There is some further information on these websites:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/future-of-landline-calls

https://www.futureofvoice.co.uk/

If you would like further information, please contact Openreach directly by emailing john.livermore@openreach.co.uk 

Have we got correct details of your practice address?

Please ensure that you have given us your correct practice address in accordance with rS69 of our Handbook. If your practice address changes, you must inform our Records Department within 28 days, you can also update your details using the MyBar portal.

Give us your feedback

If you have any thoughts about how we can improve the Regulatory Update or what content you would like to read, please email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

 


Older Regulatory Updates

Regulatory Updates in 2020

December 2020

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

On 27 November, we published an anti-racist statement to support our common objective to reduce race inequality at the Bar. As well as explaining what steps we are taking to evaluate and strengthen our own commitment to anti-racism, the statement sets four anti-racist actions for barristers’ chambers and BSB-regulated entities to implement. The actions are to:

  • complete a race equality audit to identify the barriers to race equality within a practice;
  • design and implement positive action measures where the audit shows that there is an underrepresentation of, or adverse impact on, people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds;
  • undertake comprehensive anti-racist training for all barristers and staff; and
  • produce and publish an anti-racist statement for members of chambers and the public.

During 2021/22 , we will review the profession’s response to the statement by asking what steps have been taken to meet the published actions. This will take into account any resource challenges experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we expect all practices to have regard to the four actions in reviewing their own anti-racist plans. You can read more about this in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update. The published anti-racist statement provides more information and advice about these actions and how to complete them.

In conjunction with the Bar Council, we have recently published a short paper seeking views on the proposal not to increase the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF) rates for 2021-22. The consultation paper also outlines the proposed income and expenditure budget for the whole of the General Council of the Bar during 2021-22. Please share your views by 14 December at 5.00pm. You can read more about this in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

On 27 November, we published our first annual Regulatory Decisions Report. It provides an overview of the wide range of decisions we took in relation to our regulatory operations and our legal and enforcement work between April 2019 and March 2020. This includes areas such as investigations and disciplinary action, the supervision of chambers, and the authorisation of education and training providers. On the same day, we also published the first annual report of the Independent Decision-making Body – the body established in October 2019 as part of the modernisation of our regulatory decision-making to replace the Professional Conduct Committee and the Authorisations Review Panel. You can read more about both reports in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

Finally, please don’t forget that the new minimum pupillage award that will apply from 1 January 2021 will be £18,960 per annum for pupillages in London and £16,601 per annum for pupillages outside London.

At the BSB, we are conscious that this has been a difficult and challenging year for the Bar and we send you our very best wishes for the holiday season and for a happier and more prosperous new year.

Anti-racist statement

Last month, we agreed an anti-racist statement which aims to reduce race inequality at the Bar of England and Wales.

The statement, which has been published on our website, was developed in collaboration with barristers and BSB members of our Race Equality Taskforce. It has been produced in line with the objectives in our Equality and Diversity Strategy for 2020-22 where race equality is a key focus.

The first part of the anti-racist statement explains what steps we are taking to evaluate and strengthen our own commitment to anti-racism, outlining how we intend to lead by example by setting, and meeting, high standards in our own approach.

The second part of the statement sets four anti-racist actions for barristers’ chambers and BSB-regulated entities to implement. These actions have been framed in terms of the requirements set by the Equality Rules of the BSB Handbook and suggest how practitioners, chambers and entities can embed an anti-racist approach in their work to fulfil those requirements. The four actions are to:

  • complete a race equality audit to identify the barriers to race equality within a practice;
  • design and implement positive action measures where the audit shows that there is an underrepresentation of, or adverse impact on, people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds;
  • undertake comprehensive anti-racist training for all barristers and staff; and
  • produce and publish an anti-racist statement for members of chambers and the public.

The published statement provides more information and advice about these actions and how to complete them. During 2021/22, we will review the profession’s response to the statement by asking what steps have been taken to meet the published actions. This will take into account the resource challenges experienced by some chambers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we expect all practices to have regard to the four actions set out above in reviewing their own plans.

Do you have a view on the proposal not to increase Practising Certificate Fee (PCF) rates for 2021-22, or on our proposed budget?

In conjunction with the Bar Council, we have published a short paper seeking views on proposals for the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF) rates for 2021-22.

The General Council of the Bar does not intend to increase PCF for the budget year 2021-22 and will submit a proposal for no PCF increase to the Legal Services Board (LSB) for approval.

If agreed by the Legal Services Board, this would mean that PCF bands and fees for 2021-22 will be:

Band

Income Band

2021/22 Fees

1

£0 - £30,000

£100

2

£30,001 - £60,000

£246

3

£60,001- £90,000

£494

4

£90,001 - £150,000

£899

5

£150,001 - £240,000

£1,365

6

£240,001 - £500,000

£1,850

7

£5000,001 - £1,000,000

£2,500

8

£1,000,001 and above

£3,000

The consultation paper also outlines the proposed income and expenditure budget for the whole of the General Council of the Bar (GCB) during 2021-22.

You can read the full consultation paper online. We welcome views on the proposal not to increase PCF and our budget for 2021-22. Please send your responses to: treasurer@barcouncil.org.uk.

The consultation will close on 14 December 2020 at 5:00pm.

First Regulatory Decisions Report published

We have published our first annual Regulatory Decisions Report. It covers the year ending on 31 March 2020.

The report provides an overview of the wide range of decisions we have taken in relation to our regulatory operations, and our legal and enforcement work from April 2019 to March 2020. This includes areas such as investigations and disciplinary action, the supervision of chambers, and the authorisation of education and training providers.

It replaces our annual Enforcement Report having a broader scope to reflect our new and more holistic approach to regulatory decision-making which began in 2019, in which all incoming queries and information we receive are assessed centrally. These reforms also included the establishment of a new Independent Decision-making Body to take independent enforcement and other decisions.

Important regulatory decisions we made in 2019-20 included:

  • making Bar training more accessible, affordable and flexible by enabling students to qualify via one of three pathways and beginning to authorise universities and other organisations to provide a range of courses;
  • enhancing the efficiency of our regulatory decision-making with the new Enforcement Decision Regulations which came into force in October 2019, designed to modernise our regulatory operations by streamlining and improving the way we assess and handle reports about those we regulate;
  • bringing greater fairness and consistency to pupillage recruitment by requiring Authorised Education and Training Organisations to recruit pupils in line with a single timetable from November 2020;
  • clarifying the obligations on pupils and their pupillage providers by determining that written agreements between the two parties be made compulsory from May 2020;
  • helping to improve standards of advocacy and the public’s experience in Coroners Courts by collaborating with stakeholders to start developing resources for barristers who work in this area; and
  • taking action to address bullying and harassment at the Bar, including by providing specialist training for our staff responsible for dealing with reports about conduct of this nature, carrying out research to better understand why some barristers who have been subject to this conduct do not report it, and monitoring the effectiveness of our pilot schemes which give waivers from the requirement to report serious misconduct to those involved in giving support to members of the profession who have experienced harassment.

The key statistical findings of the report are as follows:

  • Overall, the number of reports – a term that means any incoming information we receive, including what were formerly known as “complaints” – was 1,489 in 2019-20, which is an increase of around ten percent compared with 2018-19 (1,340), and significantly above the 1,242 received in 2017-18 and 1,098 received in 2016-17;
  • The number of barristers disbarred in 2019-20 increased to ten, compared to four in 2018-19, five in 2017-18 and 20 in 2016-17; and
  • 15 barristers were suspended in 2019-20, compared to four in 2018-19, eight in 2017-18 and six in 2016-17.

The full Regulatory Decisions Report 2019-20 is available on our website.

First annual report of the Independent Decision-making Body published

Last month, we published the first annual report of the Independent Decision-making Body (IDB).

The IDB was established in October 2019 as part of the modernisation of our regulatory decision-making, replacing the Professional Conduct Committee and the Authorisations Review Panel. It is responsible for making decisions on our behalf where independent input is required. The current remit of the IDB includes enforcement decisions in relation to breaches of the BSB Handbook and considering applications for review of authorisations decisions such as the issue, amendment or revocation of a practising certificate or applications for waivers in relation to compliance with the BSB Handbook. The report covers the period from 15 October 2019 to 31 March 2020 to allow future reports to align with our standard reporting year.

The report concludes that there has been a remarkably smooth transition from the previous arrangements without any major issues of management or substance arising, and that the six months covered by the report was a learning period both for members of the IDB and the executive staff while new procedures were embedded.

Key facts from the report are as follows:

  • In 2019-20, 16 enforcement cases and eight authorisation cases were considered by the IDB;
  • Of the enforcement cases, six were referred to disciplinary action, five had administrative sanctions imposed and five saw allegations dismissed;
  • Of the authorisations cases, six culminated in previous decisions being upheld and two resulted in decisions of the BSB Executive being overturned;
  • Four of the authorisations cases related to reductions in the duration of pupillage before being authorised to practise, two cases pertained to admission to the Bar as a Qualified Foreign Lawyer, one case concerned a decision of the Inn’s Conduct Committee (ICC), and another case related to the withdrawal of authorisation to provide education and training; and
  • Two decisions of the IDB to impose administrative sanctions were appealed in 2019-20, of which one was successful and the other is awaiting a decision.

You can read the IDB Report 2019-20 on our website.

New minimum funding rate for pupillage from January 2021

The minimum pupillage award is set annually, having regard to the Living Wage Foundation’s hourly rate recommendations, which are announced in November each year. The annual increase applies from January each year to all pupils, regardless of when they started pupillage. Monthly payments to pupils must be adjusted accordingly. The rate for the minimum pupillage award that will apply from 1 January 2021 will be £18,960 per annum for pupillages in London and £16,601 per annum for pupillages outside London. You can read more about this in the newly redesigned Bar Qualification Manual.

The end of the EU/UK transition period

The EU transition period ends on 31 December 2020. Negotiations between the UK Government and the EU continue. We will be writing to all Registered European Lawyers practising at the Bar of England and Wales under the outgoing arrangements and to those barristers who practise primarily in Europe to let them know how they might be affected by the changes and what action they may need to take. You can read more about this on our dedicated webpage.

November 2020

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

In spite of the current restrictions caused by the national lockdown, we aim to continue to provide a “business-as-usual” service to barristers, students and members of the public, but you may experience a delay in dealing with some queries. Please contact us by email wherever possible. You can still post physical documents to our usual High Holborn address, but they may take longer to reach us.

On 5 November, we published a new report analysing our data on barristers’ income by gender and ethnicity. It shows that female barristers are likely to earn less than male barristers and that those from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups are likely to earn less than White barristers. This holds true when looking at the income of barristers practising within the same area of law, within the same parts of the country, and amongst those with similar seniority in terms of how long they have been practising.

We have taken into account the differences between employed and self-employed barristers in the report. For the employed, we consider gross income before income tax and national insurance etc: for the self-employed, the income is deemed to be their total fee income (excluding VAT) before they pay the costs of their chambers, which is estimated typically to take between 20 and 40 per cent of their income. We also stress that the report is based on figures relating to barristers’ incomes in 2018 so predates the current pandemic which we know has had a significant effect on many barristers’ incomes. However, it is not the levels of incomes that are our focus in the report but the disparities between different groups of barristers. You can read more about this in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

On 3 November, we announced that Professor Rebecca Huxley-Binns has been appointed to lead the independent review into the difficulties experienced by students who sought to sit the centralised BPTC assessments in Civil and Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics in August. The review will cover all aspects of the delivery of the August 2020 exams including the handling of reasonable adjustments and the governance of our decision making. The review will be undertaken independently of the BSB. It will report to our Governance, Risk and Audit Committee. You can read more about Professor Huxley-Binns and the review in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

At the end of October, we wrote to those barristers’ practices selected to complete our Regulatory Return to advise them that we have extended the deadline for the completion of answers to most of the questions in the Return to 31 March 2021. However, without responses to the five questions in the Return about COVID-19 (four for sole practitioners), we will be unable to understand fully the impact of the pandemic on the profession or to consider how we might be able to support it, within our remit as a regulator, in a timely way. So, we are therefore asking those selected for the Return to respond to these questions by the original deadline of 4 January 2021. You can read more about this in the online version of this month’s Update.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Naomi Ellenbogen QC on her recent appointment to the High Court. Her appointment to the judiciary means that she is no longer able to serve on the Bar Standards Board as our Vice-Chair. I would like to thank Naomi for her sterling work and for her great support during my time as Chair.

New research on income at the Bar by gender and ethnicity

On 5 November, we published a new report analysing our data on barristers’ income by gender and ethnicity. It shows that female barristers are likely to earn less than male barristers and that those from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups are likely to earn less than White barristers. This holds true when looking at the income of barristers practising within the same area of law, within the same parts of the country, and amongst those with similar seniority in terms of how long they have been practising.

The report shows that income differences are particularly marked when looking at gender and ethnicity together, with female barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds being the lowest earning group and white male barristers being the highest earning group.

We collect data on income as part of the annual process by which barristers renew their practising certificates. This report examines the gross income of barristers and is based entirely on figures from before the impact of the current pandemic. Around one fifth of barristers are employed and for them by “income” the report refers to their gross income before tax and national insurance etc. For the four fifths of barristers who are self-employed their “income” is their total fee income (excluding VAT) before they pay the costs of their chambers, which is estimated typically to take between 20 and 40 per cent of their income. 

The report is based on figures relating to barristers’ incomes in 2018 so predates the current pandemic which has had a significant effect on many barristers’ incomes. It is not the levels of incomes that are our focus here, however, but the disparities between different groups.  

These disparities are marked and cannot be explained away by seniority, geography or area of law. The disparities underline why we will continue to prioritise our work on diversity and challenge the Bar to do more and better in combatting discrimination affecting the progression of women and of barristers from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds.

The full report on income at the Bar by gender and ethnicity is available on our website

Professor Rebecca Huxley-Binns appointed as independent reviewer of the BSB’s centralised BPTC exams in August

On 3 November, we announced that Professor Rebecca Huxley-Binns has been appointed to lead the independent review into the difficulties experienced by students who sought to sit the centralised BPTC assessments in Civil and Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics in August.

Professor Huxley-Binns is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Hull having previously held the role of Vice-Provost, Academic Enhancement, at the University of Law. Dr Sarabajaya Kumar, an expert in diversity and disability issues will work with Professor Huxley-Binns on the review. The review will report to our Governance, Risk and Audit Committee, which is composed of independent non-executive directors, and will be undertaken independently of us. The final report will be published.

The review will cover all aspects of the delivery of the August 2020 exams including the handling of reasonable adjustments and governance of our decision making. The review terms of reference are available online. In support of the review, Professor Huxley-Binns will offer an open invitation to make representations. She will also hold a series of meetings to capture views on the exams. Information about the review and how it will be conducted can be found here https://www.2020bptcexamsreview.co.uk/.

The final figures confirm that a majority of students were able to sit these exams but we would like to repeat how sorry we are that so many students were unable to complete them. 

Regulatory Return deadline partial extension to 31 March 2021

At the end of October, we wrote to those barristers’ practices who had been selected to complete our Regulatory Return to advise them that we have extended the deadline for the completion of the majority of the questions in the Return to 31 March 2021.

The extension follows contact with a number of chambers and discussions with the Legal Practice Management Association and the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks who told us that many practices wanted to be able to provide us with effective responses, but were having difficulty in doing this by the deadline of 4 January 2021.

There are, however, five questions in the Return that relate to the impact of COVID-19 on the profession (four for sole practitioners). Without responses to these questions, we will be unable to understand properly the impact of the pandemic on the profession and consider how we might be able to support the profession, within our remit as a regulator, in a timely manner. We are therefore asking those selected for the Return to respond to these questions in line with the original deadline of 4 January 2021.

We hope this flexibility about deadline dates helps those selected to complete the Return effectively.

The Legal Practice Management Association has kindly agreed to host an online Q&A session on Thursday 19 November 2020, which is open to everyone. Now you have had a chance to look through the Regulatory Return, and perhaps start to think about how you might respond, you may have come across some questions where you are not sure what we are expecting of you. This will be an opportunity to ask us about any of the questions in the Return that you need help with, and in particular the questions for which the deadline is still 4 January 2021. Details about how to join are available on our website.

As the end of the CPD year approaches, a reminder about our guidance for established practitioners

It is almost a year since we published our report on the impact of our revised approach to regulating CPD. It found that most barristers welcome the revised scheme’s greater flexibility but lacked understanding about the role of reflection in maintaining professional standards. As the CPD year comes to an end in December, we would like to remind you of the helpful guidance available on our website for established practitioners.

Applications for the government backed “Lawtech Sandbox Pilot” are now open

The Lawtech Sandbox Pilot is an industry led, government backed R&D initiative, designed to fast track transformative ideas, products and services that address the legal needs of businesses and society.

The Lawtech Sandbox Pilot will see a small, first cohort of pioneers gain access to a number of tools, services and people for three months from December, as part of a trial. It includes access to regulators (such as the BSB) for advice, support and assurance at pace - this includes multi-regulator engagement in a single forum called the Regulatory Response Unit.

Applications opened on 5 November. This is a very exciting initiative for the legal sector. The deadline for expressions of interest is 16 November which is very tight. So do please act quickly if you want to take part in this opportunity.

You can find out more about the scheme online

Support Through Court’s virtual ‘In Conversation with Sarah Langford and William Clegg’ event

18 November 2020 at 7 pm £15 per ticket £8 for students

For their fourth “in conversation” series, Support through Court will be joined by Sarah Langford and William Clegg QC. 

William Clegg QC is a leading Criminal law barrister, and author of “Under the Wig”: exploring his 47 years as a criminal barrister and involvement in over 100 murder cases. Sarah Langford is a Criminal and Family Law barrister who authored the Sunday Times Best-seller “In Your Defence”, which powerfully communicates the human side of the legal system. They are coming together to discuss their experiences at the Bar and their books, with the conversation and subsequent Q+A chaired by Radio 4 Presenter and columnist Matthew Parris.  

100% of ticket sales go to Support Through Court, a charity helping people facing the civil or family justice system without a lawyer, enabling them to access justice.

Tickets can be purchased online

Have we got correct details of your practice address?

Please ensure that you have given us your correct practice address in accordance with rS69 of our Handbook. If your practice address changes, you must inform our Records Department within 28 days, you can also update your details using the MyBar portal.

Give us your feedback

If you have any thoughts about how we can improve the Regulatory Update or what content you would like to read, please email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

October 2020

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

You may recall that in January 2020 we announced that we would be introducing a single recruitment timetable for all pupillages in line with the Pupillage Gateway timetable. This year, that timetable runs from 28 November 2020 to 14 May 2021.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have meant that many authorised pupillage organisations have had to alter the way in which they are managing pupillage recruitment this year, so we are now introducing alternative arrangements to allow greater flexibility during the 2020-21 recruitment period. Whilst we encourage pupillage organisations to adhere to the Gateway timetable, where this is not possible, we will allow advertising for pupillage outside the timetable to take place. However, interviews will need to be concluded before the end of August 2021 and offers for pupillage can only be made once the Gateway timetable has closed. Any other arrangements require a waiver application to us. You can read more about the Gateway timetable and the additional flexibility in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

We have recently published the results of a study that we commissioned to understand better why bullying, discrimination and harassment still exists at the Bar in 2020. The qualitative study, which is part of our ongoing programme to address the root causes of bullying, discrimination and harassment at the Bar, saw 35 telephone interviews conducted with 30 barristers, and five non-barristers, who had directly experienced or observed discrimination and harassment (including workplace bullying) at the Bar.

We are committed to working alongside the profession and other stakeholders to root out bullying, discrimination, and harassment at the Bar in all their forms and will therefore be convening a roundtable with key stakeholders in the near future to discuss how, within the framework of chambers, supportive arrangements can be established which enable incidences of bullying and harassment to be reported and properly addressed. This must be a high priority for the profession. You can read more about the report’s findings in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

Finally I’d just like to mention that on Thursday 15 October from 8.45am to 10.00 am Sir Andrew McFarlane will be giving a keynote speech on the theme “Coping Post COVID – the road ahead for the family courts”.  The event will also raise funds for the valuable work of Support through Court.

Pupillage Gateway Proposed Timetable 2020-21

In January 2020 we introduced a single recruitment timetable and written agreements for all pupillages.

The reforms to the advertisement and recruitment process for pupillages require chambers and other Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) to recruit pupils in line with the Pupillage Gateway timetable in order to make pupillage recruitment fairer and more consistent. The Gateway is operated by the Bar Council and the timetable runs annually, this year from 28 November 2020 to 14 May 2021. This prescribes the timelines for each stage of recruiting pupils, including the publication of adverts, submission dates for applications, shortlisting, interviews and making offers. While it is not compulsory to use the Pupillage Gateway to process applications, adherence to a single recruitment timetable will be in addition to the existing requirement to advertise all pupillages on the Gateway.

We appreciate that for many AETOs, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have meant needing to alter the way in which they are managing pupillage recruitment. For this reason, alternative arrangements will be put in place to allow greater flexibility during the 2020-21 recruitment period.

We strongly encourage AETOs to adhere to the Gateway timetable. Where this is not possible, advertising for pupillage outside of the timetable can still take place. However, interviews will need to be concluded before the end of August 2021 and offers for pupillage can only be made once the Gateway timetable has closed. Any other arrangements require a waiver application to us.

We also require written agreements between pupils and their chambers or other AETO in order to improve each party’s awareness of their obligations. Written pupillage agreements must be used for all pupillages which have started since 1 May 2020.

New qualitative study explores how to address bullying, discrimination and harassment at the Bar

We have recently published the results of a study undertaken by YouGov, to better understand why bullying, discrimination and harassment still exist at the Bar in 2020.

The qualitative study, which is part of our ongoing programme to address the root causes of bullying, discrimination and harassment at the Bar, saw 35 telephone interviews conducted with 30 barristers, and five non-barristers, who had directly experienced or observed bullying, discrimination and harassment (including workplace bullying) at the Bar. 

The aim of the study was to explore the impacts and possible drivers of bullying, discrimination and harassment, and the enablers and barriers to reporting it, as well as to identify any unmet support needs.

Key findings from the report suggest that:

  • Participants described a wide range of bullying, discrimination and harassment experiences, varying from unfair treatment based on protected characteristics, sexual harassment, long term bullying, unreasonable work demands and unfair work allocation. Low to medium level incidents were the most common, especially for those who are from more than one underrepresented group such as Black and female, or Asian and LGBT.
  • The Bar’s unique structure, with most barristers being self-employed and reliant on clerks for their caseload, led to some participants feeling that a lack of formal management structure allowed harassment and discrimination to ”slip through the net.” Pupil barristers who are early in their career and reliant on chambers for their progression, were seen as particularly vulnerable.
  • Bullying, discrimination and harassment can have both short and long-term consequences. Diminished self-esteem, anxiety, mental health complications and negative impacts on physical health were some of the long-term effects cited while negative socioeconomic consequences were also reported such as a dip in earning capacity, disruption of fruitful professional relationships, low job satisfaction and absenteeism.
  • Despite an increased focus on equality and diversity at the Bar, most barristers interviewed had not formally reported their experiences. The key reasons were fear of a negative impact on their reputation and, therefore, their earning potential and career progression.
  • The lack of clear, anonymous and supportive formal and informal pathways to reporting incidents was seen as a barrier to addressing bullying, discrimination and harassment. Clearer and more accessible guidance about bullying, discrimination and harassment, its impacts, and when to report it, is needed.
  • The report concludes that for anti-harassment policies and procedures to be effective, there needs to be a shift in culture at the Bar to encourage openness and to discourage inappropriate behaviour, with a role for the BSB, the Bar Council and other stakeholders in driving change and offering support.

We are committed to working alongside the profession and other stakeholders to root out bullying, discrimination and harassment at the Bar in all its forms. This targeted study amongst those who have directly experienced or observed bullying, discrimination and harassment at the Bar adds a very useful perspective to our understanding of how and why this behaviour is still occurring.

It is plain from the study that there are significant cultural factors, including power imbalances, which inhibit the reporting of bullying and harassment. The Bar Standards Board will therefore be convening a roundtable with key stakeholders in the near future to discuss how, within the framework of chambers, supportive arrangements can be established which enable incidences of bullying and harassment to be reported and properly addressed. This must be a high priority for the profession.”

The full report is available on our website.

A reminder about pupil supervisor refresher training

In July this year, we published the timetable for pupil supervisor refresher training. All relevant pupil supervisors must now ensure that they have met the requirement to complete refresher training by 31 December 2022.

Please see the Bar Qualification Manual on our website for further details.

If you have not already done so, please take the time to answer the following questions and let us know how your organisation plans to manage this: https://r1.dotmailer-surveys.com/274cge42-774rh85e.

If you have any queries regarding the timetable, please contact supervision@barstandarsboard.org.uk

Support Through Court’s Family Law Breakfast

We’ve been asked to mention that on Thursday 15 October from 8.45am to 10.00 am Sir Andrew McFarlane will be giving a keynote speech on the theme “Coping Post COVID – the road ahead for the family courts” followed by a panel discussion chaired by Nigel Shepherd, Consultant for Mills & Reeve and winner of Resolution’s 2019 Cornwell Award for Outstanding Contribution to Family Law.

In order to adhere to social distancing restrictions the Breakfast will be taking place via Zoom and guests will receive a complimentary ‘breakfast package’ which will include information about the event and a breakfast treat. Tickets cost £35 and every ticket sold will enable an individual to improve their access to justice with the support of one of Support through Court’s volunteers.  This can make a real difference to the lives of people going through court alone.

You can visit the Support Through Court website  for tickets.

Have we got correct details of your practice address?

Please ensure that you have given us your correct practice address in accordance with rS69 of our Handbook. If your practice address changes, you must inform our Records Department within 28 days, you can also update your details using the MyBar portal.

Give us your feedback

If you have any thoughts about how we can improve the Regulatory Update or what content you would like to read, please email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

September 2020

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

You may have seen that we recently announced new opportunities for Bar students to sit their Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) exams in October. This new opportunity follows the difficulties encountered by many students in attempting to complete these assessments as computer-based exams in August. We have announced that there will be an independent review into what went wrong and this will be published but I should like to apologise again to all those students and to members of the Bar for what was a completely unacceptable situation.  The majority of students were able to complete their exams online but far too many were affected by technical difficulties and we are extremely sorry that that happened.  The October sit will be traditional pen and paper exams arranged by the BPTC providers. You can read our announcement in full on our website.

On 1 September, we published a new version of the BSB Handbook (version 4.5) to reflect the new Internal Governance Rules that govern our relationship with the Bar Council. We have also amended a few of the procedural requirements of the Handbook’s Disciplinary Tribunal Rules and updated guidance on compliance with barristers’ Core Duty 9, which will enhance the effectiveness of our regulation. You can read more about the updates in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update

We continue to update our COVID-19 FAQs. Chambers and BSB entities should contact us if there are any significant outbreaks of COVID-19 in their practice and keep us informed if this impacts on their ability to service clients.

We also recently published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on pupillages which we have also drawn to the attention of the Ministry of Justice. You can read more about this in the online version of this month’s Update.

Having delayed its launch when lockdown began in March, earlier this month, we issued a Regulatory Return questionnaire to a selection of around 350 chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners. The Return is a way for us to assess risk across the Bar and levels of compliance with our rules. We are also very aware that the current health crisis has impacted the Bar in different ways and are keen to know more about that via the Return

We know it will take time to respond to the Return, but a number of participants last time told us that they found it useful in prompting them to review their policies and processes and think about where they could be improved, so we hope that those selected this time will find it a useful exercise too. You can read more about the Regulatory Return in the online version of this month’s Update.

Finally, if you have not already done so, please consider taking part in our pilot reverse mentoring scheme. The scheme, which was launched earlier this month by our Race Equality Taskforce, will see Bar students and pupil barristers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds mentor senior barristers from White backgrounds. It aims to address barriers to race equality and foster a more inclusive culture at the Bar. Read more about the scheme, including how to apply, on our website.

2020 Regulatory Return issued

On 9 September, we issued a Regulatory Return questionnaire to a selection of around 350 chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners.

The Regulatory Return is a way for us to assess risk across the Bar and levels of compliance with our rules. It is an exercise last undertaken in 2015-16.

The Return contains a range of questions including views on the risks that the profession faces, information about processes and controls in key areas of practice, and some questions on specific topics that are currently a priority in our strategic plan, such as dealing with allegations of harassment. We are also very aware that the current health crisis has impacted the Bar in different ways and are keen to know more about that via the Return. For example, we want to know what new risks or opportunities have arisen from COVID-19, whether chambers and entities have modified their governance or working practices or whether it has led to changes in how barristers use technology in their work.

Those sole practitioners selected to complete the Return will receive a shorter, tailored version of the questionnaire.

This is an opportunity for those selected to explain how effectively potential risks are being managed, how they ensure compliance with the BSB Handbook and how high standards of practice are maintained. The Return enables us to target our resources at those chambers, entities, individuals or areas that would most benefit from supervisory attention. Those managing risk effectively can expect a lower level of supervision.

Although we have tried to make completing the Return as simple as possible, we know it will take time to respond, but a number of participants last time told us that they found it useful in prompting them to review their policies and processes and think about where they could be improved, so we hope that those selected this time will find it a useful exercise too.  Those selected have until 4 January 2021 to respond.

You can read more about the Regulatory Return on our website.

New edition of BSB Handbook reflects the new Internal Governance Rules and enhances regulatory effectiveness

On 1 September, we published a new version of the BSB Handbook (version 4.5) to reflect the new Internal Governance Rules (IGRs) that govern our relationship with the Bar Council. We have also amended a few of the procedural requirements of the Handbook’s Disciplinary Tribunal Rules and updated guidance on compliance with barristers’ Core Duty 9, which will enhance the effectiveness of our regulation.  

The new IGRs, set by the Legal Services Board (LSB), aim to further enhance our regulatory independence and this new edition of the Handbook therefore reflects the requirements of the new rules.

The amendments to the Disciplinary Tribunal Rules enhance our regulatory effectiveness by enabling Disciplinary Tribunals to rely on wasted cost orders as proof of conduct occurring. They also clarify that Directions Judges have the discretion to make cost orders. These amendments do not impose any new obligations on barristers.

We have also provided barristers with updated guidance on Core Duty 9, making clear that barristers’ duty to co-operate with their regulators includes all relevant regulators and ombudsman schemes.

We will be issuing a protocol to make clear that BPTC students taking centralised examinations in Professional Ethics following study during the 2019/20 and previous academic years will be examined on the syllabus issued in February 2020, which was based on the previous version of the Handbook.

COVID-19

We continue to update our COVID-19 FAQs. Chambers and BSB entities should contact us if there are any significant outbreaks of COVID-19 in their practice and keep us informed if this impacts on their ability to service clients.

Report on the impact of Covid-19 on pupillage

Earlier this month, we published a report on the impact that Covid-19 is having on pupillages. The report finds that, while chambers and other organisations have shown a commendable commitment to sustaining pupillages in difficult circumstances, there is likely to be some pressure on the supply of pupillages available from 2020 to 2022.

The report is based on our engagement between April and September 2020 with 157 out of the 260 chambers and other organisations that are authorised to provide pupillage.

The research shows that all pupillages that had already started when lockdown began in March have been able to proceed, with many pupillage providers overcoming considerable challenges.

Although the vast majority of chambers and other organisations have said that they remain committed to offering pupillage - only one chambers has said that it has decided to permanently reduce the number of pupillages they intend to offer – the report expects that there is likely to be an impact on the number of future pupillages available between 2020 to 2022 as the knock-on effects of the health emergency will affect future pupillage recruitment decisions.

The emerging evidence from our continuing engagement suggests that the biggest impact will be on pupillages that are in areas of law most affected by court closures, especially Criminal and Family. We are conscious that barristers from minority groups are more strongly represented in these publicly funded areas of practice and will carefully monitor the effect of Covid-19 on pupillage and any implications for diversity at the Bar.

We strongly urge chambers and other organisations to support pupillages as much as they can, and have already issued a waiver enabling those who are due to begin pupillage in Autumn 2020 to do so even if they have not yet been confirmed as having passed their Bar Professional Training Course or Bar Transfer Test, subject to their pupillage provider being content.  To date, 44 organisations have indicated that they will use the waiver meaning that a total of at least 60 pupillages can start as planned either this month or in October.

While we are pleased that chambers and other organisations have demonstrated a laudable commitment to sustaining pupillages, we are very conscious that many face continued financial pressure owing to the consequences of the health emergency. We are doing our best to encourage and facilitate chambers to support as many pupillages as possible.

The full report on the impact of Covid-19 on pupillage is available on our website.

BSB Race Equality Taskforce launches reverse mentoring scheme

This month our Race Equality Taskforce launched a pilot reverse mentoring scheme, in which Bar students and pupil barristers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds will mentor senior barristers from White backgrounds.

The scheme, which is designed to provide an insight into people’s experiences of racism by pairing individuals who might not otherwise come together, aims to address barriers to race equality and foster a more inclusive culture at the Bar.

The first pairing will be between Elisha Lindsay, a Black female Bar student and race equality activist, and her mentee, Paul Stanley QC of Essex Court Chambers.

The scheme has been developed by our Race Equality Taskforce, a group of BAME and White barristers, which advises us on the development of strategy, policy and activity to improve race equality in the profession.

The Taskforce is now seeking volunteers to take part in the scheme. More information, including details about how to apply, is available on our website

New members appointed to our Advisory Pool of Experts (APEX)

We have appointed three new members to our Advisory Pool of Experts (APEX).

APEX is a pool of external advisors who can be called upon to provide expertise to assist us in performing our regulatory functions. We use APEX for advice and support, helping the organisation to develop policy and make regulatory decisions. APEX is made up of a diverse group of people, from a wide range of backgrounds, who are experts in their respective fields.

The new appointees to our Advisory Pool of Experts, and their corresponding areas of expertise, are:

  • Karen Chouhan (Equality and Diversity):
  • Eleanor Davison (Money Laundering Regulations); and
  • Stewart Horne (Consumer Affairs).

Members of APEX will be engaged on a case by case basis and enter into a paid consultancy agreement for services with us for up to 10 days’ work per year. They took up their appointments on 4 September.

Have we got correct details of your practice address?

Please ensure that you have given us your correct practice address in accordance with rS69 of our Handbook. If your practice address changes, you must inform our Records Department within 28 days, you can also update your details using the MyBar portal.

Give us your feedback

If you have any thoughts about how we can improve the Regulatory Update or what content you would like to read, please email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

August 2020

BSB publishes its Annual Report for 2019-20

Last month, we published our latest annual report summarising our activities during the 2019-20 business year.

The report covers the first year of our Strategic Plan for 2019-22 which ended in March 2020. This meant that as the year came to an end, the Bar, along with the rest of the country, was facing the challenge of the national lockdown to combat COVID-19. We are very aware of the challenges currently facing the profession we regulate and have amended our plans for 2020-21 accordingly, whilst at the same time continuing our work to protect the public interest and to improve access to justice.

2019-20 was the year in which several of our long-term policy development projects were realised. These included introducing:

  • more accessible, affordable and flexible routes to qualify as a barrister with the new Bar Qualification Rules which came into force in April 2019;
  • more transparency about the services provided by barristers with the new Bar Transparency Rules which came into force in July 2019 and which are designed to improve the information available to the public before they engage the services of a barrister; and
  • more efficient regulatory decision-making with the new Enforcement Decision Regulations which came into force in October 2019 designed to modernise our regulatory operations by streamlining and improving the way that we assess and handle reports about those whom we regulate.

The report also describes the day-to-day tasks we undertake when regulating barristers and specialised legal businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. This work includes overseeing the education and training requirements for becoming a barrister, monitoring the standards of conduct of barristers, and assuring the public that everyone we authorise to practise is competent to do so. To demonstrate these aspects of our work, the report shows that:

  • as of 31 March 2020, there were 16,915 registered barristers in England and Wales as well as 130 specialised legal services businesses regulated by us;
  • eight training organisations were authorised by us during 2019-20 to deliver the new vocational component of Bar training (a ninth was authorised earlier this month); and
  • during 2019-20, 32 barristers had a disciplinary finding against them of whom 15 were suspended and 10 were disbarred. (Further information about our enforcement work during the year will be made available in a separate report to be published in the autumn.)

We have also published a separate document alongside our Annual Report, the “Cost Transparency Metrics for 2019-20”, which seeks to summarise and explain our costs.

Regulatory Return August 2020

Next month, we will be issuing a Regulatory Return questionnaire to a selection of around 350 chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners. The Return comprises a series of questions about the processes and controls in key areas, views on the risks that the Bar faces and some questions on topics that are a priority in our strategic plan.

When we last conducted this exercise in 2015, we found that the Return provided a rich source of information that enabled us to direct our regulatory attention to where it was needed most and helped shape our regulatory policies. We will use the information that you provide as follows:

  • We will carry out a risk assessment based on your responses. This will reflect whether you have been able to demonstrate effective management of risk and compliance with the BSB Handbook. If we do identify anything specific within a practice which gives us cause for concern, then we will always seek to work collaboratively to make sure that controls are strengthened. Usually, this means that we will agree specific actions and a timeframe for implementation. Feedback from those who completed the last Return was that it was helpful in prompting them to review their policies and processes and think about where they could be improved.
  • Some of the questions are on specific topics that are currently a priority in our strategic plan. Your responses will help us gather information that will contribute to our evaluation of recent policy changes or to development of our regulatory policy.
  • Other questions will help us to stay up to date on changes in the profession, which will influence our assessment of risks faced by the profession.

We delayed the launch from March because we wanted to use the Return to better understand how the Bar has been affected by, and is adapting to, the ongoing health emergency and we know that this has been a very challenging time for the Bar. We know that the challenges are ongoing, so we will be giving people plenty of time to complete the Return.

We will be issuing the Returns via the MyBar portal and will be in contact with those we have selected. If you don’t hear from us, you don’t need to complete the Return.

The Legal Practice Management Association (LPMA) and the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC) will be holding a Regulatory Return Question and Answers session on Monday 14 September 2020 at 13.00pm.

The event will be attended by Julia Witting, Head of Supervision at the Bar Standards Board, who will be happy to answer any questions you have on completing the questionnaire.

You can find further details and/or register for the event online.

Further information on the Regulatory Return is available on our website and if you do have any questions, please contact us at Supervision@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk

BSB Race Equality Taskforce launches series of case studies to promote racial diversity and inclusion at the Bar

Our Race Equality Taskforce has published two case studies to promote racial diversity and inclusion at the Bar. This marks the launch of a series of case studies that will focus on encouraging barristers’ chambers to adopt equality and diversity best practice from across the sector in order to foster a more inclusive culture in the profession.

The case studies have been written by:

Our Race Equality Taskforce is a group of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and White barristers which advises us on the development of strategy, policy and activity to improve race equality in the profession.

July 2020

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

It is just over a year since the Bar transparency rules came into force. The rules were introduced to improve the information available to the public before they engage the services of a barrister by helping consumers understand the price and service they will receive, what redress is available, and the regulatory status of their provider.

We have been monitoring compliance with the rules and our most recent analysis of chambers’ websites found a marked increase in the number including information about barristers’ fees. You can read more about this analysis in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update. If your practice has not been involved in any of our spot checking exercises and therefore you have not received any feedback from us about compliance with the transparency rules, please read the guidance on our website.

Last month, we published the latest annual edition of our statistical information relating to student performance on the Bar Profession Training Course (BPTC). It provided information about the 2018-19 cohort of students which was the largest since the BPTC began. As in previous years, the report showed that training for the Bar remains highly competitive. You can read more about the latest statistics in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

If your practice is still considering what to do in relation to pupillages due to start this autumn, our online Regulatory Update  contains a summary of the latest FAQs we have published on our website about COVID-19 and pupillage. There is also a reminder about the new requirement to have written agreements in place for all pupils who started from 1 May 2020.

Finally, you may have seen that we recently published our detailed guide for candidates due to take their centralised BPTC assessments in August. You can read more about this in the online version of Regulatory Update.

Transparency rules compliance analysis

We attach importance to enabling members of public to engage confidently with barristers, especially where they use the direct access route. Consumers need a good understanding of the service they will receive and the price they will pay. The transparency rules – now a year old – aim to deliver this transparency.

We are already seeing good practice. For example, 75% of chambers are compliant or partially complaint.

But here is also room for improvement.  In terms of non-compliance with the mandatory rules, common themes identified by the review were failing to provide:

• Information about the factors which might influence the timescales of a case;

• A link to the decision data page on the Legal Ombudsman’s website; and

• A link to our Barristers’ Register.

The most common areas of non-compliance with the additional transparency rules (which apply to certain public access services) were failing to provide:

• Indicative fees and the circumstances in which they may vary;

• Likely additional costs eg Court fees; and

• A description of the relevant public access services (including a concise statement of the key stages and an indicative timescale for the key stages).

We now expect any chambers or entities not in full compliance to achieve it without delay. We shall be undertaking follow-up work to check on compliance and will take supervisory/enforcement action where we find continuing failures to meet the requirements.

2018-19 saw the highest number of Bar students since the BPTC began, says new report

Last month, we published the sixth annual edition of our statistical information relating to student performance on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). As the report has shown in previous years, training for the Bar remains highly competitive.

The report includes information about students who enrolled in the 2018-19 academic year, in total and by provider, as well as those who enrolled on the BPTC in the preceding two academic years. We introduced new Bar Qualification Rules in April 2019, and as a result, new vocational Bar training courses begin in September 2020 which will replace the BPTC.

It also features statistics on students enrolled on the BPTC between 2014-15 and 2018-19 who began pupillage following graduation from the course. This provides a wider timeframe in which to see the proportion of graduates who began pupillage within five years of completing the course. While we are very conscious of the effect that the current public health emergency is having on the Bar and may have upon the availability of pupillages in future, the data contained within this report predates its impact.

Key findings from the report are:

  • 1,753 students enrolled on the BPTC in 2018-19, an increase of 134 students compared to 2017-18. This is the highest figure for enrolments since the BPTC began in 2011;
  • almost half of students (47%) who enrolled on the BPTC in 2018-19 were overseas (non-UK/EU) domiciled, the same proportion as in 2017-18;
  • the percentage of female BPTC students has increased from 52 per cent in 2011-12 to 56.5 per cent in 2018-19;
  • of the 94 per cent who provided information on their ethnicity, the percentage of UK/EU domiciled Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students has risen to 40 per cent, around ten percentage points higher than in 2012-13;
  • around seven in ten full-time UK/EU domiciled students who enrolled in 2018-19 had passed the BPTC as of January 2020, with the remaining mostly yet to complete the course. Around 9 per cent received an “Outstanding” overall grade, around 50 per cent received a “Very Competent” grade, and around 10 per cent received a “Competent” grade;
  • of the UK/EU domiciled BPTC graduates, around 43 per cent of those who enrolled on the course from 2014 to 2018 had started pupillage by March 2019. This figure increases to around 47 per cent when looking at those enrolled from 2014 to 2017 only, as it can take time for more recent graduates to gain pupillage;
  • of UK/EU-domiciled BPTC graduates who enrolled from 2014 to 2018 and went on to secure pupillage, 53 per cent were female; and
  • when controlling for first degree class and BPTC grade, UK/EU BPTC graduates from BAME backgrounds who enrolled on the course from 2014 to 2018 were less likely to have commenced pupillage than those from white backgrounds. For example, of UK/EU domiciled BPTC graduates with an upper-second class degree and “Very Competent” overall BPTC grade, 45 per cent of those from white backgrounds had commenced pupillage, compared to around 25 per cent of the BAME cohort with the same degree class and BPTC grade. For the first time in this report, we have also published a table showing that a disparity remains even when the ranking of the first university attended is also take into account, although the disparities are less, and for all potential pupils the chances of pupillage are greater, for higher performing BPTC graduates and for higher performing students from higher ranked universities.  The BSB remains determined to address this disparity.

You can view the full report on our website.

Candidate guide for August centralised assessments

At the end of June, we published a detailed guide for candidates due to sit the centralised assessments for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and the Bar Transfer Test (BTT) in August. This followed the postponement of the April 2020 sitting and May’s announcement that the exams will be computer-based.

The guide provides further details about the arrangements which we are putting in place to make sure that the exams are accessible for everyone. Students will either sit the computer-based exams remotely via Pearson VUE’s online proctoring solution or in a physical test centre. The guide explains in detail how both types of sitting will work. Discussions will be had with the small number of students whose needs cannot be met by a computer-based solution. The guide does not apply to these students as their arrangements will be bespoke and tailored to individual needs.

We have been liaising with the BPTC and BTT providers to assess students’ needs in light of the necessary change in arrangements for the August sitting. Any student whose needs are assessed as being best met in a test centre will not need to take their exam remotely via the online solution. Breaks, for example, will be permitted in test centres.

Test centre bookings will be available widely to students, depending on their other needs. Priority will be given to those who require reasonable adjustments or who have a specific need to take their exams in a test centre. Pearson VUE has the largest and most widely available network of local centres in the UK and globally.

The full guide is available on the BSB website. You can read more about arrangements for August assessments in our latest statement.

Written agreements for pupils

Written pupillage agreements must be used for all pupillages beginning on or after 1 May 2020. Written agreements must be signed by the chambers or other Authorised Education and Training Organisation and pupil at the start of pupillage. Offers of pupillage must also be made by AETOs to prospective pupils in writing. Upon acceptance of the offer, this must be signed by the AETO and prospective pupil. Offers must incorporate the AETO’s standard pupillage terms which must be available to the prospective pupil on their website or on request.

You can read more about these requirements in the Bar Qualification Manual. To assist AETOs, the Bar Council has provided a template agreement

Covid19 FAQs about pupillage

As a reminder, we have published Covid19 FAQs about pupillage. These include important information about the following:

  • The waiver we have granted allowing pupils to progress to pupillage before they receive their Bar Professional Training Course results this year, including guidance for Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) to and details about notifying us if they decide to proceed, and
  • Heads of Chambers or equivalent must contact us before an AETO takes a decision to make changes to a current or planned pupillage.

June 2020

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

Following our announcement last month that the August centralised assessments for the BPTC and Bar Transfer Test (BTT) will be computer-based examinations, we are working closely with the BPTC and BTT providers and Pearson VUE to make sure that the arrangements we have made are fair for everyone. We know that students are anxious about taking their exams in this way and will be publishing further guidance for them around these issues shortly.

Scheduling the exams in August means that students can progress as planned to pupillage or other study/employment in the autumn. In case you missed it last month, we have produced guidance for those chambers due to take on pupils this autumn where the pupils will not have passed their BPTC or BTT by the time they are due to start.

We recently announced additional dates for the Professional Ethics exam and that the results for the other centralised assessments will now be made available on 9 October. (Professional Ethics results will be made available in early November.) You can read more about this in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

We are recruiting sixteen external examiners to ensure consistent standards of assessment by the vocational training providers. Several of our external examiners are also practising barristers and the positions are paid on a consultancy basis.  If you are interested in helping the next generation of barristers and maintaining standards in Bar training, I do hope that you will consider applying. You can find our more online.

Finally, we are currently seeking four members to join our Advisory Pool of Experts (APEX) including a barrister or lay member with expertise in money laundering regulations. Read more about this and the other APEX member vacancies in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

Additional dates for August Professional Ethics exam. Results for other centralised assessments to be made available in October

Further to our announcement on 13 May that the August centralised assessments for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and Bar Transfer Test (BTT) can be sat remotely, we have announced that the Professional Ethics centralised assessment will be held on 11 and 12 August 2020 as well as the 13 and 14 August dates previously announced and that the Civil Litigation and Criminal Litigation results will be made available in early October, a month earlier than previously announced.   

The extended dates for students to sit the Professional Ethics assessment will ensure that sufficient slots within the Pearson VUE testing system are available for students to take their exams. Students will be allocated a precise day to take their exams in the coming weeks and there will be some flexibility to take account of differing time zones. Measures will be in place to ensure there is no possibility of collusion between students sitting the exams on different dates.

The dates of the other centralised assessments remain unchanged: 17 and 18 August for Civil Litigation, and 20 and 21 August for Criminal Litigation.

Civil and Criminal Litigation results will now also be made available to students via their providers in early October. This is a month earlier than previously announced. This means anyone due to start a pupillage in October should only be awaiting their Professional Ethics result – which will be made available in early November - by the time they start their pupillage. As final overall BPTC results will only be issued once all results are confirmed in November, the BSB has also waived the usual requirement that only those who have been confirmed as having successfully passed a BPTC may start the non-practising period of pupillage.

More information about the August centralised assessments is available in a series of FAQs on the BSB website. We will publish guidance for  students sitting the exams as soon as the remaining details have been finalised.

New members sought for our Advisory Pool of Experts (APEX)

We use APEX for advice and support, to help it develop policy and make regulatory decisions. APEX is made up of a diverse group of people from a wide range of backgrounds, who are experts in their respective fields.

Four members are sought, including three lay members and one who can be either a barrister or lay member. Each new member must possess expertise in one of the following areas:

  • Equality and Diversity (lay member);
  • Regulatory Policy and Theory (lay member);
  • Consumer Affairs (lay member)
  • Money Laundering Regulations (barrister or lay member).

APEX members will be engaged by us on a case-by-case basis and enter into a paid consultancy agreement for services with us for up to ten days work per year. We aim to recruit talented candidates and values diversity in background, skills and experience. It is committed to providing equality of opportunity for all applicants.

For more information on how to apply, please review the candidate pack. Candidates should provide a covering letter outlining how they meet the competencies required for the position(s), together with a brief CV, supporting details form, and equality and diversity monitoring form (optional).

If you have any queries, please contact Rebecca Forbes, Head of Governance and Corporate Services, (RForbes@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk) in the first instance.

Please send completed applications to: APEXapplications@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk.

 The candidate pack can be found on our website.

Closing date: 9:00am, Monday 29 June 2020.

Interviews will be conducted remotely for the various roles in the week commencing 27 July 2020.

Professional Ethics markers wanted

We are looking for Professional Ethics markers to join our marking team for the August 2020 examination.

The number of markers required will depend on the number of scripts there will be to mark.

We will allocate a number of scripts to each marker to mark. This will be confirmed once the exams have taken place (Tuesday 11 – Friday 14 August).

The role includes:

  • Undertaking sample marking of 8 scripts for the question(s) you have been given to mark and collating any feedback or suggestions to your Team Leader to discuss during the Markers Meeting.
  • Attending a markers’ meeting (which is likely to take place virtually). This meeting ensures all markers are trained to apply the mark scheme consistently to the standard set by the Central Examinations Board.
  • Marking the scripts allocated to you, ensuring overall standards are maintained and deadlines for marking are adhered to.
  • Submitting samples for moderation to Team Leaders at the designated times.

We are currently in the process of finalising a marking timetable to include key dates and deadlines but can confirm that the time commitment required from markers will be between mid-August to mid-October.

The fees for marking Ethics are:

£150 for attending the markers’ meeting (this counts as a half-day but the meeting is likely to be less than three hours).

£5 for marking each short answer question (this fee is the same for sample marking, first marking and second marking).

£3 for agreeing the marks of each short answer question (whether you act as first or second marker).

If you would like to discuss the role in more detail, please contact the BSB exams team: exams@barstandardsboard.org.uk

There will be other opportunities to mark for us; we are also seeking markers for the December 2020 and April 2021 exams.

External examiners wanted for bar training

We are recruiting 11 Subject Specialist External Examiners and five Subject Lead External Examiners from September 2020 to ensure that the common assessment criteria for the vocational component of Bar training specified in our Curriculum and Assessment Strategy are met.

Subject Specialist External Examiners act on our behalf in monitoring the consistency of standards of assessments set by the organisations that we authorise to provide the vocational component of Bar training (Authorised Education and Training Organisations or “AETOs”) in their specialist subject area. These are:

  1. Advocacy
  2. Professional Ethics
  3. Opinion Writing and Legal Research
  4. Drafting
  5. Conference Skills

External Examiners must be competent in the relevant subject area and be familiar with quality assurance practices established in UK Higher Education. They must demonstrate integrity, impartiality and independence.

Subject Lead External Examiners co-ordinate the work of the Subject Specialist External Examiners to provide an interim and annual written report to us and to the AETO course leaders, upon whether or not:

  • the assessment process measures student achievement rigorously and fairly in line with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy; and
  • the standards and the achievements of students are consistent between AETOs.

     They also report any urgent concerns as they arise.

A current list of AETOs is available on our website. External Examiners review assessments in their subject areas across a range of AETO locations but will not be required to visit them to do so. This is a change to our previous approach, as our External Examiners will no longer be required to visit AETOs to assess student experience. Some travel may be required to attend Extenuating Circumstance and Final Boards, but these can be attended remotely.

An indication of fees and time commitment for each role and subject area is shown in the Candidate Brief. External Examiners will enter into a consultancy agreement for services with us and will not be employed by us. Reasonable expenses can be claimed in line with our expenses policy.

To express an interest in one or more of these roles please send a CV and brief covering letter stating how you think you meet the requirements of the role to EErecruitment@barstandardsboard.org.uk by 1 July 2020. Please ensure that you specify the role(s) you are applying for.

Interviews are likely to be held online and are scheduled to take place w/c 13 July 2020.

We aim to recruit talented candidates and value diversity in background, skills and experience. We are committed to providing equality of opportunity for all applicants.

May 2020

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

We are very conscious of the challenges currently being faced by many barristers and by those training for the Bar. So we have revised our annual Business Plan for 2020-21, which we recently published. Our immediate priorities are now:

  • to enable those who could not sit their BPTC exams in April to do so as soon as possible - so we announced this week that they will be able to sit the August centralised assessments for the BPTC and Bar Transfer Test remotely. You can read more in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update;
  • to help the Bar to maintain pupillages – which is why we have, this week published new guidance for chambers offering pupillage having recently  sent a survey to Heads of Chambers to find out more about how the current crisis is affecting them]; and
  • to find savings in our costs wherever we can, while maintaining our regulatory capability. We announced recently that we have joined the Bar Council in implementing a pay and recruitment freeze, which aims to deliver a saving of £110,000 in our budget, along with other savings measures including furloughing some of our shared staff. 

Alongside these immediate responses to the health emergency, we are also working to understand the longer-term implications for the profession and for our regulation.  The Regulatory Return, which we have now postponed until the Autumn, will play an important role in gathering information to inform this work. 

You can read more about our latest Business Plan in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

Finally for this month, please remember that written pupillage agreements must be used for all pupillages beginning on or after 1 May 2020. You can read more about this new requirement in the online version of this Update.

BSB sets priorities for the next 12 months

Last month, we published our annual Business Plan for 2020-21 in which we set out our main priorities for the year.

The work outlined within the Plan has been revised in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic but may be subject to further review as the impact of that becomes clearer. For example, the Regulatory Return exercise has been delayed until Quarter Three in recognition of the current pressures which the Bar is facing.

The focus of our work will continue to be our day-to-day work to regulate barristers in England and Wales. This includes overseeing the education and training requirements for becoming a barrister, monitoring the standards of conduct of barristers, and assuring the public that everyone authorised to practise is competent to do so.

Our Business Plan outlines our budget for the coming year. The Budget has not yet been revised in light of the pandemic, however, because it is not currently possible to forecast what impact the pandemic will have on our income or costs. We are nevertheless already taking measures to reduce our costs including freezing salaries and non-essential recruitment. This aims to deliver a saving of £110,000 in our budget. The Chair, Vice-Chair and Director General of the BSB have also joined the heads of the Bar Council in taking a voluntary 20% pay cut.

The Business Plan also includes the following policy development and implementation work:

  • enabling students affected by the cancellation of the April 2020 sitting of the Bar Professional Training Couse central examinations to have the chance to gain the necessary qualifications as soon as possible;
  • overseeing the introduction of new Bar vocational training courses from September 2020;
  • conducting a review of the BSB Handbook to make sure that it remains fit for purpose, relevant and accessible;
  • reviewing the regulatory approach to barristers’ conduct arising from their actions outside their immediate professional practice as barristers;
  • implementing a new Equality and Diversity Strategy and continuing work to encourage the reporting of bullying and harassment at the Bar;
  • evaluating the impact of new Bar transparency rules which were introduced in July 2019; and
  • developing a public engagement strategy to help increase public understanding about legal services, and in particular those offered by barristers, in partnership with charities and consumer organisations.

2020-21 is the second year in our current three-year Strategic Plan which was first published in March 2019.

Written agreements for pupils

Written pupillage agreements must be used for all pupillages beginning on or after 1 May 2020. Written agreements must be signed by the chambers or other Authorised Education and Training Organisation and pupil at the start of pupillage. Offers of pupillage must also be made by AETOs to prospective pupils in writing. Upon acceptance of the offer, this must be signed by the AETO and prospective pupil. Offers must incorporate the AETO’s standard pupillage terms which must be available to the prospective pupil on their website or on request.

You can read more about these requirements in the Bar Qualification Manual. To assist AETOs, the Bar Council has provided a template agreement.

Legal Ombudsman publishes COVID-19 guidance

The Legal Ombudsman has published COVID-19 guidance on its website. It is also keeping up to date with regulatory guidance as this is likely to be useful to them further down the line if complaints emerge relating to the current situation.

ICCA guidance on principle of remote advocacy

Our senior management team are aware that there are risks associated with remote advocacy and that new skills and competences are required – we identified this as a possible area for Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Our Director of Regulatory Operations, Oliver Hanmer, has spoken with COIC and the Inns who have equally noted this as an area for guidance to the profession. Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) has now produced some useful guidance.

New advice published for Litigants in Person

We have a statutory duty to inform the public about their legal rights and obligations. We recently helped to fund publication, and contributed to the drafting, of new guidance for Litigants in Person, in partnership with Advicenow. You can find this advice online.

Pupillage Provider Survey and guidance

Last month, we consulted Heads of Chambers about what the effect of COVID-19 has been on pupillages. We have already had some very useful conversations with some chambers but wanted to understand more widely what the effect of the health emergency has had on pupillages, or the effect it may have on future pupillages. This will help us when making decisions about how we respond to the current situation. It has also informed the new guidance which we have issued to organisations providing pupillage. The guidance outlines the factors they should consider when deciding whether to allow people to progress as planned to pupillage pending the release of the BPTC results in early November.

If you have any questions about this survey or the guidance, please email our BSB COVID-19 email address:  ROD_contingency_planning@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk

August centralised assessments for the BPTC and Bar Transfer Test to be sat remotely

We have announced that the centralised assessments on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and for the Bar Transfer Test (BTT) which were postponed from April 2020 to August will be computer-based examinations. The BSB exams will be delivered using Pearson VUE’s OnVUE secure global online proctoring solution, which will enable students and transferring qualified lawyers to sit the exams remotely.

We have also confirmed that anyone due to complete their BPTC or BTT this summer who has been offered a pupillage will be permitted to start that pupillage in the autumn whilst awaiting their BPTC or BTT results provided those offering that pupillage are content for them to do so.

The decisions follow the postponement of the April examinations because of the lockdown imposed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) will reopen for registrations before the start of June. This will also be available as a computer-based test that can be taken remotely.

  • The August centralised exams

We have signed a contract with Pearson VUE to deliver the August centralised assessments in Civil Litigation, Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics via OnVUE, its online proctoring solution. The system uses a combination of artificial intelligence and live monitoring to ensure the exam is robustly guarded, deploying sophisticated security features such as face-matching technology, ID verification, session monitoring, browser lockdown and recordings.

Such robust security measures provide assurance to students (both past and present), the profession, and the public who will rely on the services provided by these future barristers, that the 2020 cohort of BPTC graduates will have been assessed to as high a standard as those in previous years as they will have taken the exams that they were intended to take in a secure environment. The revised arrangements are fully supported and endorsed by the BPTC providers.

The remote centralised exams will take place on the following dates:

  • 13 and 14 August - Professional Ethics
  • 17 and 18 August - Civil Litigation
  • 20 and 21 August - Criminal Litigation

Students will receive instructions for sitting the exams from their BPTC or BTT provider in due course, so it is very important for them to look out for communications from their provider. The exams can be sat remotely or, in certain cases, at an extensive network of Pearson VUE’s physical testing centres around the world (subject to local health and safety guidance and prevailing restrictions at the time of the exams). Providers will be in touch with students to determine what reasonable adjustments they may need.

Full BPTC and BTT results – including both the centralised and provider-set assessments - will be issued to students at the beginning of November. We will schedule a new BPTC and BTT exam sitting in December 2020 to enable students, where necessary, to resit any of the centralised assessments.

  • Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT)

We have also announced that those students intending to start their Bar training on one of the new authorised pathways starting in September will be able to sit the BCAT under the same remote proctored conditions described above. Some students have already taken the BCAT, but registrations were suspended when the test centres closed under lockdown.

We expect that the BCAT will reopen for registrations before the start of June. The BCAT can then be taken via OnVUE, Pearson VUE’s remote proctoring solution, or at a test centre where these are available. The BCAT remains an entry requirement for the vocational component of Bar training.

  • Progression to pupillage

Most of those due to start a pupillage or period of work-based learning this autumn have already passed their BPTC. However, typically around a third sit the BPTC in the year that they start pupillage.

Given the exceptional circumstances and the fact that they will not know their BPTC result when their pupillage is due to start, we have waived the usual requirement this year that only those who have been confirmed as having successfully passed a BPTC may start the non-practising period of pupillage. We encourage pupillage providers to allow people to progress as planned to pupillage pending the release of the BPTC results in early November and have published guidance to them and to pupils on the factors to consider when taking that decision.

The requirement for pupils to complete their vocational training and be Called to the Bar will remain in order to commence the practising period of pupillage. Although the current lockdown may affect the number of pupillages which can be offered, we hope that as many as possible will remain available.

April 2020

Baroness Blackstone's Blog

I am conscious that, for many, this is a difficult and uncertain time, but I know that you will continue to do everything you can to serve the interests of your clients. The role of the Regulator must be to strike an appropriate balance between maintaining rigour in the public interest and demonstrating sensible flexibility in response to the challenges facing the profession.

Since 16 March, we have been updating the information on our website about the impact of the measures to combat COVID-19. As the situation develops, please make sure you check this information regularly.

Our COVID-19 Statement includes the following:

  • Information on how to continue to comply with your obligations within the BSB Handbook;
  • Frequently Asked Questions for those currently providing pupillage and those intending to do so from the autumn;
  • Details of the flexibility which have been introduced following discussions with the Bar Council about the 2020-21 Authorisation to Practise process;
  • Frequently Asked Questions about meeting your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements during the current period; and
  • Information for Bar training students following our decision not to go ahead with the April sit of the centralised Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and Bar Transfer Test (BTT) examinations.

Our teams are working hard to provide all our stakeholders with as much certainty as we can in these uncertain times. We will publish more detail on our website as soon as we are in a position to do so.

This week we published our 2020-22 Equality and Diversity Strategy. In taking this forward in the months ahead, we will, of course, be sensitive to the demands made on the profession by the current health emergency, while also ensuring that momentum on this hugely important agenda is maintained. You can read more about our new Strategy on the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

BSB publishes two-year equality and diversity strategy

This week we published our Equality and Diversity Strategy for 2020-2022.

This follows the publication of our Diversity at the Bar Report in January 2020, which showed that the diversity of the profession was slowly improving but that further progress is needed.

We have developed equality objectives and a corresponding action plan to increase diversity at the Bar and improve access to justice.

The strategy includes objectives to address discrimination and harassment and to review the role of regulation in enhancing access to justice and wellbeing at the Bar.

The Equality and Diversity Strategy will be implemented over a period of two years.

March 2020

Baroness Blackstone’s blog

The annual Authorisation to Practise (AtP) process is now open. If you have not already done so, please visit the MyBar portal to renew your practising certificate for 2020-21. As well as paying the Practising Certificate Fee, you will need to complete a number of mandatory regulatory declarations. Please complete all the diversity data questions too to help us to improve the evidence base for our Equality and Diversity strategy. The deadline to complete the AtP process is 31 March 2020. You can read more about AtP on our website.

We are in the process of issuing the 2020 Regulatory Return to a selected group of around 350 chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners. The Return asks respondents a range of questions including their views on the risks that their practice faces, information about the processes and controls they have in key areas of their practice, and some questions on specific topics that are currently a priority in our strategic plan such as dealing with allegations of harassment. If you do not hear from us, you do not need to complete a Return.  But, if you do receive a request, please do complete it promptly. You can read more about the 2020 Regulatory Return exercise in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

Also in the online version of this month’s Update, you can read a brief guide from us about the need to report personal data breaches under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Data Protection Act 2018 to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). There is also information about when you might need to report such breaches to us too.

You may have seen that over the past few months we have been announcing which providers have become Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) for the provision of the vocational component of Bar training. So far, there are eight such AETOs and Manchester Metropolitan University have also told us that they intend to seek authorisation. The eight approved AETOs are: BPP University, Cardiff University, The City Law School, The Inns of Court College of Advocacy, Northumbria University, Nottingham Trent University, The University of Law, and The University of the West of England. Most of the fees being charged by these AETOs for their Bar training provision are considerably lower than the fees previously charged for the outgoing Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

Finally, if you are one of the current pupillage providers who was contacted by us last month to apply to become an AETO for the pupillage / work-based learning component of Bar training, please submit your application to us by 31 May if you still want to continue to be authorised by us to offer pupillages. We are sending out these invitations to apply in batches, so do not worry if we have not contacted you about this yet.

Barristers and personal data: the duty to report

Barristers are reminded of the need to report a personal data breach under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Data Protection Act 2018 to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) where appropriate. The ICO has a self-assessment tool and guidance to help determine whether a breach needs to be reported to them.

If the personal data breach poses a serious risk to clients or the public, barristers must also promptly report the breach to us in accordance with their duty to report serious misconduct.

Barristers must also promptly report to us if, following their report to the ICO, the ICO takes any enforcement action against them. Failure to report promptly to the BSB would constitute serious misconduct.

Finally, barristers should have regard to our confidentiality guidance in taking steps to protect personal data. 

2020 Regulatory Return

We are in the process of issuing a Regulatory Return to a selection of around 350 chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners.

The Return asks respondents a range of questions including their views on the risks that their practice faces, information about the processes and controls they have in key areas of their practice, and some questions on specific topics that are currently a priority in our strategic plan such as dealing with allegations of harassment.

The last time we conducted this exercise was five years ago, and we found that it provided a very rich source of information that enabled us to direct our regulatory attention to where it was most needed and to shape our regulatory policies. We know it takes valuable time to respond to these Returns but a number of chambers also told us that they found it useful too. It prompted them to review their policies and processes and think about where they could be improved.

We will be issuing the Returns in stages and we will be in contact with those we have selected to tell them when they need to complete it. If you do not hear from us, you do not need to complete a Return. But, if you do receive a request, please do complete it promptly.

February 2020

Baroness Blackstone’s blog

I am delighted to confirm that Mark Neale joined us on 3 February as our new Director General. He succeeds Dr Vanessa Davies who has retired after nine years of excellent service.

Mark brings a wealth of experience from a distinguished career in public service and I am confident he has the vision and abilities to lead us into the future as we continue to seek to regulate the Bar effectively in the public interest. I know that Mark is looking forward to meeting many representatives of the Bar over the coming months.

Image result for mark neale

Last month, we announced the introduction of a single recruitment timetable and written agreements for all pupillages.

The reforms will require chambers and any other Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) to recruit pupils in line with the Pupillage Gateway timetable from November 2020 in order to make pupillage recruitment fairer and more consistent. From May, we will also require written agreements between pupils and their chambers or other AETO in order to improve each party’s awareness of their obligations. You can read more about these changes in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

Version 4.4 of the BSB Handbook came into force on 3 February 2020. The new version saw the introduction of a new rule (Rule C85A) to prevent barristers from supervising immigration advisers who have been subject to serious sanctions by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) or a legal regulator. You can access the latest version of the Handbook on our website.

On 31 January, we published our annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that progress was made in 2019, with the profession becoming increasingly diverse. The number of barristers providing us with their data has increased but we should very much like more of you to do so in order to help us in our work of promoting equality and diversity at the Bar. You can read more about this and access the report itself from the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update. Do please complete the diversity data questions when renewing your practising certificates for the year ahead. The annual Authorisation to Practise process is due to begin this month.

Finally, you may have seen that we have recently appointed 11 King’s Bench Walk (11KBW) to our new Tribunal Representation Panel. The move to paid legal representation at disciplinary tribunals and other enforcement hearings is an important development in our aim to conduct our legal and enforcement work as an efficient and modern regulator. We will in future seek to recover the costs of tribunal representation where appropriate in order to reduce the impact of the new arrangements on the Bar as a whole. There is more about the recent appointment in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

Introduction of a single recruitment timetable and written agreements for all pupillages

At the end of January, we announced reforms to the advertisement and recruitment process for pupillages.

The reforms will require chambers and other Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) to recruit pupils in line with the Pupillage Gateway timetable in order to make pupillage recruitment fairer and more consistent.

The Gateway is operated by the Bar Council and the timetable runs annually from late November to early May. This prescribes the timelines for each stage of recruiting pupils, including the publication of adverts, submission dates for applications, shortlisting, interviews and making offers. While it will not be compulsory to use the Pupillage Gateway to process applications, adherence to a single recruitment timetable will be in addition to the existing requirement to advertise all pupillages on the Gateway.

We will also require written agreements between pupils and their chambers or other AETO in order to improve each party’s awareness of their obligations.

Written pupillage agreements must be used for all pupillages commencing from 1 May 2020, and compliance with the Gateway timetable will be required from 1 November 2020, both of which will be conditions of being authorised by us to provide pupillage or work-based learning.

These developments follow a period of engagement with the profession and other key stakeholders during 2019 about the proposals, which along with other recent changes reaffirm our commitment to make Bar training more accessible, affordable and flexible while sustaining high standards. We are committed to working closely with the profession and the Bar Council to implement these reforms.

BSB Handbook updated

Version 4.4 of the BSB Handbook came into force on 3 February 2020. You can view, download and search it online.

The new version saw the introduction of a new rule (Rule C85A) to prevent barristers from supervising immigration advisers who have been subject to serious sanctions by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) or a legal regulator.

Barristers must also have regard to the updated guidance on supervising immigration advisers.

Diversity at the Bar: 2019

On 31 January, we published our annual report on Diversity at the Bar. The report shows that progress was made in 2019, with the profession becoming increasingly diverse, and a growing proportion of barristers disclosing demographic data.

While the diversity of barristers and pupils in England and Wales is heading in the right direction, the report shows there is still some way to go before the Bar is as fully diverse as the society it serves.

Some of the key findings include:

  • At 61.3 per cent men still outnumber women at 38.0 per cent of the practising Bar. The percentage of women at the Bar overall increased by 0.6 percentage points during the last year.
  • The percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) practising barristers has increased by 0.6 percentage points compared to December 2018. 13.6 per cent of the practising Bar is now BAME.
  • Within the overall category of BAME there are some notable differences. There is a slightly greater proportion of Asian/Asian British practitioners at the Bar compared to that proportion of the UK working age population (7.2% vs 6.2%), and the same can be said for those from Mixed/Multiple ethnic backgrounds (3.2% vs 1.3%). The opposite pattern is found for those from Black/Black British backgrounds (3.2% vs 3.7%), and for those from Other ethnic groups (1.2% vs 3.2%).
  • Male QCs still outnumber female QCs, but the percentage of female QCs increased from 15.8 per cent in December 2018 to 16.2 per cent in December 2019.
  • The percentage of BAME QCs has increased by 0.3 percentage points year on year with 8.1% being BAME, 87.4% being white and 4.5% not declaring their ethnicity.
  • There is a greater proportion of female pupil barristers, at 54.8%, than male pupil barristers, at 45.2%, for the fourth year in a row.
  • The ethnic diversity of pupil barristers slightly exceeds that of the working-age population of England and Wales, with 19.0 per cent being BAME.
  • Although there is a relatively low response rate of 53.7 per cent, of those that have provided information on disability status to us, only 6 per cent of the Bar disclosed a disability. This is substantially lower than the percentage of disabled people in the employed working age UK population estimated at 13.4 per cent.

The response rate amongst barristers disclosing their diversity information increased across all categories in 2019 except for a very small decrease for gender which is already at 99.90 per cent.

While the data follow a similar trend to those seen in recent years insofar as they show a slow and steady improvement in gender and ethnic diversity at the Bar, there is more to be done before the profession can be said fully to reflect the society it serves. One of our key strategic aims is to encourage a more diverse legal profession, and these annual diversity reports provide a strong evidence base so that action can be taken. We urge all barristers to complete the diversity data questions when renewing their practising certificates for the year ahead.

We have a statutory responsibility to monitor and promote equality and diversity both as an employer and as the regulator of barristers in England and Wales.

Our 2018-19 annual Enforcement Report

Last month, we published our annual Enforcement Report for 2018-19.

The report provides an overview of our enforcement work during the year to 31 March 2019 – the last full year of the enforcement processes in place prior to the changes introduced in October 2019 – and includes statistics about the volume, trends and outcomes of complaints about barristers, including disciplinary proceedings.

The key statistical findings of the report are as follows:

  • Overall, 80% of complaints were concluded or referred to disciplinary action by us within the service standards of eight weeks for initial assessment, five months for concluding investigations which we instigate without an external complaint being received, and eight months for concluding investigations into complaints received from a third party. There was a strong performance in relation to the service standard for completing the initial assessment of external complaints, but the service standards for completing investigations were not achieved;
  • The volume of enquiries and reports about possible misconduct by barristers (known as "pre-complaints") we received rose to 1,087 in 2018-19 from 1,026 in 2017-18;
  • The number of new complaints we opened in 2018-19 (479) increased slightly compared with 2017-18 (475), and 2018-19 saw the highest number of new complaints opened in one year since 2013-14. Of the 479 complaints, those received from the public (known as “external complaints”) continued to increase for a second year running. 359 external complaints were received as compared to 304 in 2017-18 (an increase of 18%);
  • Complaints from litigants-in-person (people who represent themselves in court) continued to account for a significant number of external complaints made to us, increasing from 77 in 2017-18 to 95 in 2018-19. However, 91% of these complaints were closed at the preliminary assessment stage mainly because they did not reveal any breaches of the Handbook and stemmed from the complainants not fully understanding how the court system operates or the role of barristers;
  • Reports of serious misconduct received from the profession decreased to 100 in 2018-19 from 133 in 2017-18;
  • The number of complaints referred to disciplinary action increased to 50 cases in 2018-19, compared with 37 in 2017-18;
  • 27 disciplinary tribunals took place during 2018-19 compared with 39 during 2017-18 with findings of professional misconduct made in 84% of the cases heard by a tribunal – the same percentage as the previous year; and  
  • The number of barristers disbarred in 2018-19 decreased to four, down from six in 2017-18, and the number of barristers suspended in 2018-19 was four, compared to eight in 2017-18.

In October 2019, we introduced substantial changes to our regulatory operations and decision-making, and future reporting will reflect this. The reforms, which were designed to enable us to deal with reports about barristers more efficiently and effectively, included establishing a new Independent Decision-making Body and appointing an Independent Reviewer, as well as a new single initial point of contact for sending information to us.

Read the full BSB Enforcement Annual Report 2018/19 on our website.

Appointment of 11KBW to our Tribunal Representation Panel

Following a recent open application process, we have appointed 11 King’s Bench Walk (11KBW) to our new Tribunal Representation Panel. 11KBW will provide counsel to represent us at the Bar's independent disciplinary tribunals and at a range of other hearings associated with its enforcement processes.

The Tribunal Representation Panel replaces our pro bono Prosecution Panel.  The move to paid legal representation at disciplinary tribunals and other enforcement hearings is an important development in our aim to conduct our legal and enforcement work as an efficient and modern regulator.

We began instructing counsel from 11KBW from 1 January 2020. They will be remunerated in accordance with the fee structure published as part of the open application process.  We will in future seek to recover the costs of tribunal representation where appropriate in order to reduce the impact of the new arrangements on the Bar as a whole.

The recent appointment follows our announcement in October that we have modernised our regulatory decision-making by introducing new Enforcement Decision Regulations.

Regulatory Return 2020

From March this year we will be issuing a Regulatory Return to a selection of around 350 chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners.

The Return comprises a series of questions that cover a range of topics including your views on the risks that your practice faces, information about the processes and controls you have in key areas of your practice, and some questions on specific topics that are currently a priority in our strategic plan.

When we conducted this exercise before, we found that it provided a very rich source of information that enabled us to direct our regulatory attention to where it was most needed. It also helped us to shape our regulatory policies.

We will be issuing the Returns in stages and will be in contact with those we have selected to tell them when they need to complete it by. If you do not hear from us, you do not need to complete a Return.

If we do identify anything specific within a practice which gives us cause for concern then we will, wherever possible, work collaboratively with you to make sure that your controls are strengthened. We may make recommendations, set actions to be completed within a certain timeframe or, in some cases, conduct a visit to your practice. Feedback from those who completed the last Return was that it was helpful in prompting them to review their policies and processes and think about where they could be improved.

January 2020

Baroness Blackstone’s blog

Let me begin by wishing you a very happy new year. We hope you will continue to find our Regulatory Updates a useful way of staying on top of your regulatory requirements as a barrister.  

Amended Money Laundering Regulations came into force on 10 January 2020.

If you undertake work that falls within the scope of the Regulations, you should review the changes and take steps to update your anti-money laundering policies, controls and procedures to ensure that you comply with the changes to the Regulations. We have published interim guidance on our website summarising the key changes. This was developed jointly by all the legal sector regulators.

You must declare to us that you fall within the scope of the Money Laundering Regulations when you apply for, or renew, your Practising Certificate or your entity authorisation. There is more important information about the amended Regulations in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

On 1 January, the rate for the minimum pupillage award increased to £18,866 per annum for pupillages in London and £16,322 per annum for pupillages outside London. You can read more about this on our website.

On the same date, new guidelines for determining whether someone is fit and proper to become a practising barrister became live. This means that those applying for admission to an Inn, and subsequently for Call to the Bar, must be assessed against these new guidelines. Again, you can read more on our website.

At the end of this month, our Director-General, Dr Vanessa Davies, will retire. Over the past nine years, she has played a vital role in transforming both the way in which the Bar is regulated and the day-to-day operations of the Bar Standards Board. Under her watch, the BSB has become a modern and more efficient regulator and the profession is now regulated in a more proportionate and risk-based way. I would like to thank Vanessa for all her sterling work and wish her a relaxing and well-earned retirement.

Our new Director-General, Mark Neale, will join us on 3 February following a recruitment process with a strong list of candidates. I am confident that Mark has the vision and abilities to lead the BSB into the future and I look forward to working closely with him.

Amended Money Laundering Regulations

Amended Money Laundering Regulations came into force on 10 January 2020. They contain changes brought in by the EU’s Fifth Money Laundering Directive. The regulations will continue to apply in England and Wales after Brexit. The changes include:

  • an expanded definition of “tax advisers” that come within scope of the Regulations;
  • additional requirements relating to Customer Due Diligence checks; and
  • a new requirement to report discrepancies on the register at Companies House.

While there had been indication in the consultation paper that there may be changes to the trust registration regime, these have not been included in this legislation. We anticipate that HM Government may seek to implement changes at another time.

We have published interim guidance on our website summarising the key changes. This was developed jointly by all the legal sector regulators. If you do work that falls within the scope of the Regulations, you should review the changes and take steps to update your anti-money laundering policies, controls and procedures to ensure that you comply with the changes to the Regulations. We are currently working with other legal regulators and representative bodies to update the joint legal sector guidance. The updated guidance will be approved by HM Treasury and published on our website. We anticipate that this will be available by March 2020. Further updates will be provided in due course. There is no grace period, as such, for complying with the amended Regulations, but we will be taking a proportionate approach to enforcement.

Barristers and BSB entities must comply with the Money Laundering Regulations if the work that they do falls within scope of Regulations 11 and 12. Barristers and BSB entities must declare to us that they fall within scope when they apply for, or renew, their Practising Certificate or their entity authorisation.

If you require advice on meeting your obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations, please contact the Bar Council’s Ethical Enquiries Service.

Annual Authorisation to Practise process

The 2020 Authorisation to Practise (AtP) period will start in February. During AtP, all practising barristers will be required to renew their annual practising certificates and to pay the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF). We will provide more information about AtP next month, including details about the PCF rate bands for 2020-21. The Records team will be in contact with you directly when AtP opens.

Regulatory Updates in 2019

December 2019

Baroness Blackstone’s blog

Let me begin by wishing you a very happy new year. We hope you will continue to find our Regulatory Updates a useful way of staying on top of your regulatory requirements as a barrister.  

Amended Money Laundering Regulations came into force on 10 January 2020.

If you undertake work that falls within the scope of the Regulations, you should review the changes and take steps to update your anti-money laundering policies, controls and procedures to ensure that you comply with the changes to the Regulations. We have published interim guidance on our website summarising the key changes. This was developed jointly by all the legal sector regulators.

You must declare to us that you fall within the scope of the Money Laundering Regulations when you apply for, or renew, your Practising Certificate or your entity authorisation. There is more important information about the amended Regulations in the online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

On 1 January, the rate for the minimum pupillage award increased to £18,866 per annum for pupillages in London and £16,322 per annum for pupillages outside London. You can read more about this on our website.

On the same date, new guidelines for determining whether someone is fit and proper to become a practising barrister became live. This means that those applying for admission to an Inn, and subsequently for Call to the Bar, must be assessed against these new guidelines. Again, you can read more on our website.

At the end of this month, our Director-General, Dr Vanessa Davies, will retire. Over the past nine years, she has played a vital role in transforming both the way in which the Bar is regulated and the day-to-day operations of the Bar Standards Board. Under her watch, the BSB has become a modern and more efficient regulator and the profession is now regulated in a more proportionate and risk-based way. I would like to thank Vanessa for all her sterling work and wish her a relaxing and well-earned retirement.

Our new Director-General, Mark Neale, will join us on 3 February following a recruitment process with a strong list of candidates. I am confident that Mark has the vision and abilities to lead the BSB into the future and I look forward to working closely with him.

Do you have a view on our proposal not to increase Practising Certificate Fee (PCF) rates for 2020/21, or on our proposed budget?

In conjunction with the Bar Council, we have published a short paper seeking views on our proposal to keep the Practising Certificate Fee (PCF) rates for 2020-21 the same as what they have been for 2019-20.

If agreed by the Legal Services Board, this would mean that PCF bands and fees for 2020-21 will remain as follows:

Band

Income Band

2020/21 Fees

1

£0 - £30,000

£100

2

£30,001 - £60,000

£246

3

£60,001- £90,000

£494

4

£90,001 - £150,000

£899

5

£150,001 - £240,000

£1,365

6

£240,001 - £500,000

£1,850

7

£500,000 - £1,000,000

£2,500

8

£1,000,000 and above

£3,000

This proposal is in line with the commitment made in our 2019-22 Strategic Plan to provide value-for-money to the profession which funds us in everything that we do.

The paper also outlines the proposed income and expenditure budget for the whole of the General Council of the Bar (GCB) during 2020-21.

The BSB’s regulatory costs are budgeted to rise, but as the paper explains, this increase can be offset without raising the PCF fee level due to the imminent completion of the GCB’s long-term accommodation and refurbishment programme in the current finance year.

The reasons why regulatory costs are set to increase include:

  • the need to maintain dual exam systems for a period of two years starting in 2020-21 during the implementation phase of our Future Bar Training programme to make Bar training more accessible, affordable and flexible whilst maintaining the high standards of entry expected at the Bar; and
  • a long-standing commitment to remunerate prosecutors’ work that was previously undertaken pro bono. This initiative will help drive fairness and diversity in the profession and comes into effect on 1 January 2020.

You can read the full consultation paper online.

Minimum pupillage award from 1 January 2020

Last month, we announced that the rate for the minimum pupillage award that will apply from 1 January 2020 will be £18,866 per annum for pupillages in London and £16,322 per annum for pupillages outside London.

This follows our announcement in May 2018 that there would be a minimum award paid to those undertaking pupillage or any other form of work-based learning, to be set having regard to the Living Wage Foundation’s hourly rate recommendations, which are announced in November each year. The revised minimum award will apply to all pupils who commenced pupillage on or after 1 September 2019.

The minimum pupillage award first took effect from 1 September 2019 and was set at £18,436 per annum for pupillages in London and £15,728 per annum for pupillages outside London.

This increase to the minimum pupillage award reaffirms our commitment to ensuring that training for the Bar is more accessible, affordable and flexible while sustaining high standards.

Spot-checking compliance with the new Bar transparency rules

The Bar transparency rules came into force 1 July 2019. The rules are designed to improve the information available to the public before they engage the services of a barrister.

More information about the new rules is available here.

To ensure compliance with the transparency rules, we will undertake spot-checking from January 2020. In addition to random sampling, we will target:

• higher risk practice areas such as immigration and family law, which are likely to have more vulnerable consumers;

• practice areas with less bespoke services, where price transparency is particularly useful for consumers; and

• Public Access services which are subject to additional price transparency requirements.

Our primary objective is to promote compliance, so where we identify chambers who are not complying, we will work with them to put things right in the first instance, rather than taking enforcement action.

For information and help in complying with the new transparency rules, please refer to our Transparency Standards Guidance.

Research findings published into barristers’ attitudes to the revised Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme for established barristers

Earlier this month, we published a report on the impact of our revised approach to regulating barristers’ Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It finds that most barristers welcome the revised scheme’s greater flexibility but lack understanding about the role of reflection in maintaining professional standards.

In January 2017, we introduced a more outcomes-focussed approach to CPD for barristers with at least three years of experience, replacing the requirement to complete a certain number of hours of CPD each year.  This was followed by an assessment in 2018, which found that just under 90% of those who were spot checked by us were considered compliant, or compliant with some feedback from us, after they were asked to submit their CPD records for 2017 – the first year of the revised scheme’s operation - for assessment.

Today’s report indicates that:

  • a majority of barristers found that CPD activities are effective in developing knowledge, keeping up to date with developments in a practice area, and addressing any knowledge or skills gap;
  • the new scheme has expanded the range of activities that can now count as CPD and this flexibility of CPD choices is welcomed by many barristers;
  • increasingly, barristers are undertaking CPD in areas such as stress management and wellbeing training, diversity and equality, ethics, and practice management issues - areas that were not covered in the old CPD scheme; and
  • use of the guidance and information about the new scheme on our website has been high and considered useful by most barristers.

The report also highlighted several areas for us to consider further. In particular:

  • barristers found it difficult to understand what we mean by the concept of “reflection” and the role it plays in their learning and development; and
  • the need to make the administration of CPD by barristers as easy as possible and to signpost guidance, templates and CPD record card examples on our website.

We welcome the findings of this report and are pleased to see that many of you value the greater flexibility of the revised CPD scheme. There are a number of aspects of our approach to CPD that require further review, and we are keen to help the Bar to understand the value of reflection and its role in professional development. It is a fundamental element of CPD in other sectors and provides an excellent opportunity to take stock, assess how you are performing and identify areas for further development.

We will work with the profession to make sure that our guidance on reflection supports the nature of practice at the Bar whilst also providing a framework for you to take an informed view on your future training needs.

A copy of our 2019 CPD evaluation report is available online.

November 2019

Baroness Blackstone’s blog

                                                                                       

During the first quarter of 2020, we will be issuing a “Regulatory Return” questionnaire to a selected group of chambers and entities, including some sole-practitioners.

The Regulatory Return is a way for us to assess risk across the Bar and general levels of compliance with our rules within barristers’ practices. It is an exercise we last undertook in 2015, when it was known as the “Supervision Return”.

If you are selected, the Return will ask you a number of questions about how risks across your practice are managed. These include questions about your governance, your risk management, equality and diversity, client services and financial management. We have tried not to make the Return too onerous to complete and you will have a number of weeks to collate your responses and submit a final version of the return to us electronically.

Only those practices selected to complete the 2020 Regulatory Return will need to do so. We will write to you soon if your practice has been selected. You can read more about the 2020 Regulatory Return in our online version of this month’s Regulatory Update.

Please do not forget about the new Bar transparency rules which came into force earlier this year. There is an implementation period until January 2020. The rules are designed to help consumers better understand the price and service they will receive from barristers and place various requirements on your practice depending on the services it offers. We have recently produced a short video to help you comply with the new transparency rules which you can view below.

Lastly, we have appointed AlphaPlus, an independent research company, to carry out an evaluation of our Future Bar Training (FBT) reforms. This evaluation will of course take place over a number of years as the reforms take effect but we will shortly begin this process by sending out online surveys which will help us set a baseline as to where we are now aimed at both training organisations and trainees. You can read more about this on our website. Please do look out for your opportunity to help us evaluate FBT.

New Regulatory Return to be issued in 2020

Conducting a Regulatory Return with those whom we regulate is part of our risk-based approach to regulation which you can read more about on our website. The focus of the 2020 Regulatory Return will be on the aspects of our regulation which are likely to have the biggest impact on consumers if things were to go wrong in any particular barrister’s practice.

The information we receive from you will help us direct our regulatory attention in the future to where it is most needed. The Return is not about looking to catch anyone out.

If we do identify anything specific within a practice which gives us cause for concern as a result of the Returns we receive, then we will, wherever possible, work collaboratively with that practice to make sure things are put right. The action we take will vary depending on the results of our assessment of your Return. We may make recommendations, set actions to be completed within a certain timeframe, or, in some cases, conduct a visit to your practice.  

The feedback we received from the 2015 Return was positive and many of those selected told us that they found the whole process very helpful, because it helped them to manage risks within the practice more effectively.

If you are selected this time, then we hope that you will take your time to provide comprehensive answers to the questions we ask as this will be of benefit both to you and to us. Details of how to complete the 2020 Regulatory Return and how we will make ourselves available to help you, will be communicated to the selected practices when we issue the Return questionnaire next year. 

Can you help us to evaluate Future Bar Training?

This summer we appointed AlphaPlus, an independent research company, to carry out an evaluation of the Future Bar Training reforms. This evaluation will run for at least four years and will involve evaluating both the implementation of the reforms, as well as the extent to which the reforms have succeeded in meeting their objectives.

As part of the data collection for this project we will shortly be sending out online surveys on behalf of AlphaPlus aimed at both training organisations and trainees. Collecting information at this stage of the implementation of the reforms is vital for the evaluation process – it enables the evaluation to gather baseline information from the period before the reforms are fully implemented, as well as collect valuable information on the views of those affected on how the reforms are being implemented. Any information you provide to AlphaPlus will be used confidentially and reported anonymously and will be used only for the purposes of this evaluation.

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019 

June 2019   

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

If you have any feedback or would like to know more about aspects of our work then please get in touch with us via contactus@barstandardsboard.org.uk