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Regulatory Updates in 2019

December 2019

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.

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.

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.

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


Older Regulatory Updates

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