Consumer News is a quarterly roundup of what we do within our remit to regulate barristers in England and Wales. Consumer News delivers everything you need to know about the regulation of barristers in the public interest straight to your inbox.

Read recent editions of Consumer News and sign up to receive it by emailing communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

Consumer News July 2019

Our work to advance the interests of barristers' clients and consumers

We are pleased to bring you the first edition of Consumer News, a quarterly roundup of what the Bar Standards Board (BSB) is doing within its remit to regulate barristers in England and Wales. Consumer News will deliver everything you need to know about the regulation of barristers in the public interest straight to your inbox. So, if you want to stay in the know, you need to subscribe. 

BSB introduces new rules on price transparency for consumers

The BSB's new rules to improve transparency standards for barristers' clients came into force in July. The new rules will significantly improve the information available to the public before engaging the services of a barrister.

Barristers' practices will be required to:

State that they may be contacted by the public to obtain a quotation for legal services;Provide contact details for doing this;State their most commonly used pricing model or hourly rate;State the areas of practice in which they most commonly provide legal services;State and provide a description of their most commonly provided legal services;Provide information about the factors which might influence the timescales of their most commonly provided legal services;Display text to show that the practice and its barristers are “regulated by the Bar Standards Board””;Display information about the practice's complaints procedure, any right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), how to complain, and any time limits for making a complaint.

There will also be additional rules for providers of Public Access work, in which legal services are supplied directly to members of the public rather than via a solicitor or another third party. 

The change will be a significant shift, empowering consumers to make more informed choices between providers.

The new rules come after the Competition and Markets Authority’s 2016 recommendations that legal regulators deliver a step change in transparency standards, to help consumers understand the price and service they receive, what redress is available, and the regulatory status of their provider.

Whilst barristers will be required to comply with the new transparency rules, there will be an implementation period until January 2020, after which spot checks will take place.

Read more ( https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases-and-news/latest-edition-of-bsb-handbook-introduces-new-bar-transparency-rules/ )

 

New Strategic Plan for BSB

The BSB’s new Strategic Plan 2019-2022, published in March, contains the Bar Standards Board's aims for the next three years:
Delivering risk-based, targeted and effective regulation.Encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession.Advancing access to justice in a changing market.
The BSB also identified three themes posing the greatest risk to its statutory objectives:
Working cultures and professional environment inhibit an independent, strong, diverse and effective profession.Innovation and disruption in the legal services market of opportunities for the profession and the public.Affordability and lack of legal knowledge threaten access to justice.
Read more ( https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases-and-news/new-bsb-strategic-plan-sets-out-regulatory-priorities/ )

 

Civil standard of proof adopted for misconduct proceedings

The new edition of BSB Handbook, published in April 2019, adopted the civil standard of proof for professional misconduct proceedings to alleged breaches of the Code by barristers occurring after 31 March.
The standard of proof will change from the criminal standard ("beyond reasonable doubt" or "satisfied so as to be sure") to the civil standard ("on the balance of probabilities" or "more likely than not") for conduct that occurred after 31 March. The criminal standard will continue to be applied to alleged professional misconduct that occurred before that date. This change came after a public consultation in 2017 and will bring the Bar's disciplinary arrangements in line with those of other professional regulators.

Reforming the way we deal with information from the public

We are reforming how we handle information we receive from members of the public to make our processes more efficient.  
It will remain the case that members of the public can send information to the BSB about a barrister who has not represented them.
However, if a member of the public wishes to complain about a barrister of whom they are a client,  they should go the Legal Ombudsman (LeO).

Read more ( https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/complaints-and-professional-conduct/making-a-complaint/ )

 

Consumer News February 2020

Subscribe to stay up to date with our work to advance the interests of barristers' clients and consumers

Welcome to the second edition of Consumer News, the quarterly roundup of what the Bar Standards Board (BSB) is doing within its remit to regulate barristers in England and Wales. To stay in the know, email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk

BSB sets out new public legal education strategy

In January 2020, the BSB set out our new strategy for Public Legal Education (PLE).

The new strategy aims to make it easier for consumers to navigate the complex market for legal services, with a focus on those with poor legal knowledge who might have to represent themselves. To reach and provide meaningful assistance to this group, we are establishing:

a series of corporate partnerships with organisations who have the most expertise in reaching those with low levels of legal knowledge and who might have to represent themselves; and we are increasing investment in our website to provide consumers with clear, practical and high-quality information.
Our first partnership is with Law for Life, a leading charity dedicated to ensuring that people have the knowledge, confidence and skills needed to secure access to justice. Law for Life runs the website, advice now, which is visited 1.2 million times a year, with 76% of its users identifying as actual or potential Litigants in Persons (LiPs). We will support Law for Life to deliver a number of projects by April 2020, including:

producing a resource, the working title for which is "When the other side has a barrister - a guide for Litigants in Person". It will explain what LiPs should expect from a barrister representing the other side, and will review the basic skills they can employ in order to put their own case as well as they can.plugging the gap in information available to Litigants in Person having to take a case about legal issues such as debt, consumer problems, breach of contract and personal injury by producing a series of resources in accessible language that explain how the legal process works and how to explore alternatives to going to court. This series will include: Things You Need Know Before You Sue; Hearings; Interim Applications (How to Ask a Civil Court to Do Something); Legal Costs and Who Pays Them; Evidence Needed to Sue Someone; and How to Settle a Court Claim.producing a route map to suing in the civil court, giving LiPs an overall picture of what is involved in a typical county court case, using a case study.developing a tailored workshop series for women-led organisations supporting highly vulnerable women ex-offenders or women at risk of offending to ensure they are better able to access housing and welfare entitlements.

In addition, we will continue to invest in our website, making clear, practical and high-quality content accessible to consumers. We will create a new section on the BSB website explaining how to report a barrister representing the other side, reinforcing consumers' understanding about what the barrister's role is and what issues do and do not merit a report to the regulator. On our website, the public can already find:

general information about barristers - what they do and how they differ from other lawyers;guidance on finding and using a barrister, explaining when you might need one, how to find and choose one, how to instruct them, and what you can expect;advice on how to search a barrister's record so you can discover whether they have been the subject of disciplinary findings;an explanation of how you can report a concern about a barrister, including when you should report someone to the BSB and when you should report them to the Legal Ombudsman; anda prominent link to Legal Choices, the consumer-facing website which provides independent information about legal issues and lawyers.

There will be more partnerships to come in the next financial year, which will continue to focus on providing information to the public, empowering them to make more informed choices about legal services and their interaction with the justice system in England and Wales.

 

Reforming the way we deal with information from the public

On 15 October 2019, reforms to the way we deal with information from the public took effect. The main change is that all incoming queries and information will be assessed centrally. This single point of initial contact will make sending information to the BSB ( https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/ask-us-a-question-or-report-a-concern-landing.html ) easier for members of the public.
It will remain the case that members of the public can send information to the BSB about a barrister who has not represented them.
However, if a member of the public wishes to complain about a barrister of whom they are a client, they should go to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO).
Find out more ( https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/resources/press-releases/bsb-modernises-its-regulatory-decision-making-and-launches-new-website.html ) about changes to how we deal with information from the public.

 

New transparency rules take effect

Our new rules to improve transparency standards for barristers' clients, which came into force in July 2019, are becoming embedded. Spot checks began in January 2020.
The new rules require barristers' practices to provide consumers with enhanced price and service information. There are also additional rules for providers of Public Access work in which legal services are supplied directly to members of the public rather than via a solicitor.
Find out more ( https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/for-barristers/compliance-with-your-obligations/transparency-rules.html ) about the transparency rules.

 

New BSB website makes it easier for consumers to access the information they need

The BSB launched a new website in October 2019 which makes it easier for consumers and members of the public to access the information they need.

Content for the BSB website, which was used by over 300,000 people last year, was developed with help from Law for Life. The website now provides information for consumers that is more comprehensive and accessible than ever before. It includes advice about how to access legal services, how to find and use a barrister, and how to report a concern to the BSB.

The BSB Handbook, which contains the rules for how barristers must behave and work, is now easier for the public to read and navigate. The website's new Handbook feature makes searching for specific rules quick and simple  - and there's no need to download the whole Handbook to do so.

Finding relevant content on the new and improved BSB website is straightforward. There are dedicated sections for the public, for students, and for barristers and other legal professionals, containing everything they need to know about BSB rules and guidance.

By improving the information available online, consumers will be empowered to make more informed choices when accessing legal services, and members of the public will be better equipped to report any concerns they have about a barrister to the BSB.