24 February 2018

BSB publishes its 2015/16 Business Plan and announces review of regulation of immigration advice and services

1 April 2015

The barristers' regulator, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), has today published its 2015/16 Business Plan - setting out the key areas of work it will undertake in the new financial year. These include becoming a licensing authority for barrister-led businesses with non-lawyers as owners (known as Alternative Business Structures [ABSs]) and a review of the way in which it regulates immigration advice and services.

Commenting on the plan, Chair of the BSB, Sir Andrew Burns, said: "This is a blueprint for the third and final year of our Strategic Plan 2013-16 in which we marked for ourselves a route to become a more modern and efficient regulator. It is set against a backdrop of opportunity and challenge - not just for us but for the whole legal services profession.

"It is our job to empower barristers to adapt their services to meet their clients' needs and to help preserve the best of what the Bar has provided to the public for many years. That's why this year we'll strive to become a licensing authority for ABSs so as to encourage new business models to emerge and thrive and increase client choice."

In a few days' time the regulator will announce the first non-ABS entities it has authorised since it began accepting applications at the start of 2015. Throughout 2015/16 the BSB will continue to regulate barrister-led, advocacy-focussed entities and monitor their operation.

Director General of the BSB, Dr Vanessa Davies, said: "Those seeking immigration and asylum advice are often especially vulnerable - particularly now that recent legislative changes are showing their full impact. So this year we are especially keen to see whether we need to provide any further regulatory protection for immigration clients. This is all part of ensuring we have in place the systems that properly protect and promote the public interest."

The BSB first suggested it would review the regulation of immigration and advice services two years ago, in 2013, after it published an independent report on clients' experiences.

The 2015/16 Business Plan outlines the BSB's five main development priorities. These are:

  • the BSB's Future Bar Training programme of reform to legal education and training; 
  • becoming a licensing authority for ABSs; 
  • revising the BSB's governance structures to ensure it does the job it needs to do as efficiently as possible; 
  • developing our risk capacity and capability so as to target regulatory activity towards risks on the basis of evidence; and
  • enhancing the organisation's knowledge of consumers and engagement with stakeholders.

As set out in the plan, the BSB will also continue to

  • supervise all chambers according to the risk they represent to the public so that the regulator's resources are targeted where they are most needed; and 
  • handle complaints against barristers and take disciplinary or other action where appropriate in a timely manner.

In addition, the 2015-16 Business Plan shows the BSB will also:

  • establish a new baseline for regulatory costs and steady the rate of increase compared to the previous three years;
  • start plans to assess the impact of the BSB Handbook, which was launched in January 2014; and
  • develop a new Strategic Plan, which will set out the organisation's direction and goals for 2016-19. 

Finally the plan outlines the budget that the BSB controls directly for 2015/16 and which is set at £5,436,000. Commenting on this, Dr Davies said: "We are pleased to state that we have kept the increase to our direct expenditure at a minimal level as the significant work relating to the governance review, risk-based regulation, and Future Bar Training will be challenging to deliver within our constraints. Our overhead costs have reduced this year compared to last, so the total cost of regulation is lower in 2015/16. While our duty is to serve the public, we are of course accountable to the profession that funds us and so it is vital that we are cost-effective and transparent about our use of resources."

The BSB's 2015/16 Business Plan can be read in full here.

ENDS

Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board
Our mission is to regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 1452 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk.