3 Dec 2019

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published a report on the impact of its 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, the BSB 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 the regulator were considered compliant, or compliant with some feedback from the BSB, 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 the BSB website has been high and considered useful by most barristers.


The report also highlighted several areas for further consideration by the BSB. In particular:

  • barristers found it difficult to understand what the BSB meant 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 the BSB website.


Commenting on the report, Oliver Hanmer, Director of Regulatory Operations, said:

“The BSB welcomes the findings of this report and I am pleased to see that barristers 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 I am keen to help barristers 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 barristers to take an informed view on their future training needs”.

A copy of the BSB's 2019 CPD evaluation report is available here.


Notes to editors

About the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) scheme

Maintaining an effective CPD scheme is one of the ways in which the BSB assures itself of the competence of the Bar. The revised scheme, which was introduced in 2017 to replace the more prescriptive earlier scheme, requires barristers to:

  • prepare a written CPD plan setting out their learning objectives and the activities they proposed to undertake during the year;
  • keep a written record of the CPD activities undertaken over the previous three years including their reflection on the CPD they have undertaken, any variation in their plans and an assessment of their future learning objectives;
  • reflect on their planned and completed CPD activities to assess whether they had met their objectives; and
  • declare to the Bar Standards Board in 2018 that they had completed their CPD for 2017. This was done as part of the annual authorisation to practise process, when practising certificates are renewed.


About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t.

About the CPD scheme for established barristers

More information about the CPD scheme for Established Practitioners is available here on our website.

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