We are issuing this statement to outline what we are doing in response to COVID-19.
The Bar Council and the COVID-19 Working Group have also been issuing helpful guidance to the profession which you can find here.
LawCare has a range of resources for staying mentally healthy during the pandemic on their website.
This statement will be kept under review and updated as necessary so please refer to our website for the latest information rather than calling or emailing us. We have limited resources and do not have the capacity to respond quickly to a large number of enquiries.
We know that barristers will continue to do everything they can to serve the interests of their clients and we should like to make clear that following Government or Public Health England guidance is not of course a breach of the BSB Handbook.
More generally, the BSB Handbook also permits you to cease to act and return instructions if there is another substantial reason for doing so (Rule C26.8). As you are personally responsible for your own conduct and your professional work, in deciding whether you have another substantial reason for returning instructions you must use your own professional judgment and be able to justify your decisions and actions (Rule C20). The Bar Council’s Ethical Enquiries Service is available to assist barristers with their professional obligations under the BSB Handbook. If you decide to return instructions, you should again ensure that you comply with any relevant obligations, particularly your duties to the court and your clients (e.g. you should clearly explain to your client or solicitor the reasons for doing so).
Chambers/entities and barristers will need to consider the impact of the Government advice and the restrictions on travel and social contact on the management of their practices. Chambers/entities should also consider how any pupils should be supported whilst the restrictions are in place and how they will maintain contact with clients. In relation to their employees, all chambers/entities should follow the Government guide for employers which can be found here.
Chambers and BSB entities should contact us if there are any significant outbreaks of COVID-19 in their practice and keep us informed if this affects their ability to service clients.
Authorisation to Practise process
The 2021 Authorisation to Practise process has now been successfully completed.
Barristers’ Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements
Bar training students
(updated 11 May 2021)
The 2019/20 centralised BPTC and BTT examinations
An independent review of the August 2020 exams was commissioned and we published its report and an Action Plan on 6 May 2021. You can read more about this on our website.
2021 Bar training exams
Students should contact their AETO – and not the BSB – about arrangements for their 2021 Bar training exams.
Pupillages that started in Autumn/Winter 2020/21 before BPTC and BTT results were available
(Updated 11 May 2021)
Given the exceptional circumstances, for individuals who did not know their BPTC or BTT result when their pupillage was due to start, we waived the usual requirement that only those who have been confirmed as having successfully passed a BPTC or BTT may start the non-practising period of pupillage.
The waiver was granted on a one-off basis to the 2019-20 cohort of students who were expecting to take their final BPTC or BTT assessments in Spring 2020 but were unable to because of changes to timetabled exams and assessments due to Covid-19 and instead sat their exams in August, October or December 2020.
The waiver allows these students to progress to the non-practising period of pupillage with the agreement of their AETO. The AETO is required to assess the risks of allowing individual pupils to commence pupillage under these circumstances, with reference to our published guidance.
These pupils are not permitted to progress to the practising period of pupillage, nor are they eligible to apply for a provisional practising certificate, until they have successfully completed their vocational training and required Qualifying Sessions, and been Called to the Bar.
If a pupil fails to complete the BPTC or BTT satisfactorily, it is for the AETO to determine whether they are willing to continue to fund the pupil through an extended non-practising period of pupillage. The AETO will need to consider, in line with our guidance, how long they are prepared to continue funding the pupil and extending the non-practising period, and address it in the written pupillage agreement (which is now a mandatory requirement).
So that we can direct our resources in the most efficient way, rather than calling us, please continue to monitor this webpage.
Pupils and chambers / Authorised Education Training Organisations (AETOs) providing pupillages
We have published a set of FAQs covering our position on a range of issues associated with the administration, supervision and training of those currently undertaking pupillage.
Transferring Foreign Lawyers
Bar Transfer Test (BTT) candidates who had pupillage in England and Wales due to commence in autumn 2020 were permitted to commence that pupillage whilst waiting for their BTT results, subject to the agreement of their AETO. Read more in our FAQs about pupillage and COVID-19.
Any BTT candidates who have reached the two-year limit within which they are authorised to take the Test can apply to the Authorisations team for an extension of time.
If our FAQs do not answer your question, you can contact us via the email ROD_contingency_planning@barstandardsboard.org.uk
Requests for Review of an Authorisation Decision
We published a set of frequently asked questions covering our position on a range of issues associated with requests for review of an authorisation decision.
We have worked together with other legal sector supervisors under the Money Laundering Regulations to publish joint guidance to manage risks arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following the government announcement on 4 January 2021, we instructed our staff to work from home unless there is a strict business need for them to come to the office. We continue to have rigorous health protection measures in place in our offices for staff and visitors. We are collecting visitors’ contact details in order to comply with the Government’s guidance on “test and trace”. You can read more about this in this Privacy statement.
We aim to continue to provide a “business-as-usual” service to barristers, students and members of the public. Our staff have access to systems to work from home but we are a relatively small organisation and you may experience a delay in dealing with your query if key staff are affected.
As our staff are working at home, it may take longer than usual for items such as original certificates to reach us. Please post your mail to our usual High Holborn address and our internal redirection arrangements will ensure that it reaches the correct members of our team.