11 December 2018

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair, Baroness Blackstone

Earlier today, we  launched a consultation seeking views about proposed new rules to improve transparency standards for clients of the Bar. Our work in this area is in response to the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA's) market study of legal services. The new transparency standards relate to information about the areas of law in which barristers practise, the legal services provided by barristers, what those services cost and a client's right to redress. We are also seeking views on  draft guidance for the profession in relation to these new rules which, after we have considered responses to this  consultation and received approval by the Legal Services Board (LSB), will come into force by May 2019.

Between November 2017 and February 2018, we ran a pilot scheme with nine chambers, entities and sole practitioners to test some suggested minimum disclosure requirements in order to help finalise the rules. An  evaluation report of the pilot was published alongside the consultation launch. We also published a  new research report, commissioned by us, to explore how consumers make decisions when searching for barristers, and to test how consumers respond to different methods of presenting price and service information.

Following their report on Sexual harassment in the workplace, we shall soon be writing to the Women and Equalities Select Committee to outline the actions we are taking and  considering to tackle sexual harassment at the Bar.

We will soon be publishing updated guidance on reporting sexual harassment and on the drafting of Non-Disclosure Agreements. Please keep an eye out for this new guidance when it is published.

Our consultation on our draft new Bar training rules closes on 17 September. After we have considered whether any responses to the consultation should be reflected in the rules themselves the new rules will come into force in early 2019 subject of course to the approval of the Legal Services Board. 

During October and November, we will be holding a series of events around the circuits for you to find out more about the new training and qualification rules. For details of these events - and the session we will be running at this year's Bar Conference on 24 November - please visit our website

One aspect of the new rules coming into force will be the need for chambers or organisations wishing to take on pupils from next year to apply to us to become an   Approved Education and Training Organisation (AETO). This will include chambers who currently offer pupillage and those who have done so in the past. We recently wrote to all such chambers about this, and you can read more about this new requirement on our website.

Finally, I would like to make you aware that The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has refreshed its guidance on how to direct  clients to their complaints procedures. LeO's joint first tier research with the Solicitors Regulation Authority last year highlighted that solicitors' firms were not always meeting their requirements. While the research focussed on solicitors, LeO feels that there are lessons to be learned across all legal service providers.