20 July 2018

Regulator seeks new powers

11 May 2015

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said that it needs new statutory powers to step into barristers' failing chambers, companies and partnerships properly to protect the interests of clients where something has gone seriously wrong.

In a consultation paper launched today, the barristers' regulator argues that, in serious instances of failure to comply with regulatory requirements, dishonesty, insolvency, or where otherwise necessary to protect the interests of clients, it should have statutory powers to take control of client files. This will enable the BSB to take action such as obtaining alternative representation for clients and securing any papers and assets that belong to them. The BSB envisages that such powers would be used in very rare circumstances, but may be necessary to protect the interests of clients.

The consultation also proposes powers to establish and require contributions to a compensation fund or similar arrangements. Whilst the BSB does not believe that this is necessary at the moment, this may change in the future as the market develops and risks change.

These are powers that will be available to the BSB if it becomes a regulator of ABSs, following the recent application that it has submitted to the Legal Services Board. However, the powers referred to in the consultation paper could be applied in respect of everyone regulated by the BSB - including barristers, entities and their owners and managers.

Director of Regulatory Policy for the BSB, Ewen Macleod, said "To be clear: these are powers that would be used very rarely, but we think that, in the event something goes awry, all clients should benefit from the same safeguards - regardless of whether they're the client of an ABS, a BSB-regulated entity, or a barristers' chambers. Other regulators already have similar controls so we want to ensure there are no holes in the safety net for consumers. For us, having these powers available, if and when we need them, is key to protecting the public interest and upholding the Regulatory Objectives set out in the Legal Services Act."

Within the consultation, the BSB is also seeking to put many of its existing regulatory powers on a statutory footing. These include the power to disqualify any individual from being employed by a business or person that comes under the regulator's remit. This would include lay people employed in a chambers or entity.

At present, the BSB's disciplinary controls over non-barristers (entities, their owners or managers) come from the contractual relationship it enters into with those it regulates. The regulator believes it is regulatory best practice for these powers and its jurisdiction over non-barristers to be stated unambiguously in legislation.

Finally, the BSB is consulting on its arrangements for appeals against entity authorisation decisions. The current appeal route to the High Court was introduced as a temporary measure until the BSB could seek an order to make arrangements for such appeals to be heard by the First Tier Tribunal.

Click here to read the consultation paper. The deadline for responding is 31 July 2015. Responses should be sent to the BSB Regulatory Policy Department regulatorypolicy@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

ENDS


Notes to editors

About intervention under the Legal Services Act 2007
The grounds for intervention under the LSA 2007 can be broadly summarised as:

• Failure to comply with one or more terms of the licence;
• The appointment of a receiver or another defined insolvency event;
• Suspected dishonesty by a manger or employee;
• Undue delay in dealing with a matter; and
• It is necessary to exercise the power for the benefit of clients.

About the S69 Order
A section 69 order cannot be made unless the Legal Services Board (LSB) recommends such an order to the Lord Chancellor. If the LSB agrees to make such a recommendation the BSB will consult separately on the draft order itself.

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.