To view our monthly Regulatory Updates, select from the links below:


Regulatory Updates in 2020

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 (link). 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. [LINK]

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.

Older Regulatory Updates

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