We are issuing this statement following the Prime Minister’s statement on 16 March concerning measures to combat coronavirus/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.
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. However, you should ensure that you comply with any relevant obligations arising from following that guidance, particularly your duties to the court and your clients (e.g. if you need to cease to act or return instructions, 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.
Announcement about the 2020 Authorisation to Practise process
(First published 20 March. Last updated 31 March)
In view of the current coronavirus/COVID-19 measures the Authorisation to Practise process is being extended so that all remaining barristers who have yet to pay their Practising Certificate Fee now have until 31 May to do so. Those who wish to delegate the payment to their administrators should complete the process by midnight on Friday 15 May.
Additionally, an option has been introduced of a two-staged payment process for those chambers which have still to pay their set’s fees in a "block" payment. This new measure will give any set of chambers yet to pay this year’s “block” payment, the flexibility to pay 50% of the fee by 31 May 2020 and the remaining 50% by 31 October 2020. This staging of payments only applies to “block” payments by chambers and, for technical reasons, cannot be made available to individual PCF payments through MyBar.
To help ease the financial burden for everyone, the intention is to introduce a universal PCF payment instalment scheme in time for the 2021-22 AtP process and for subsequent years.
Barristers’ Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements
Bar training students
We recognise that students are concerned about the impact on their training, assessments, qualifying sessions and Call to the Bar. We are keeping in close contact with Bar training providers and the Inns of Court.
In light of government statements about the measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 we have taken the decision that the April sit of the centralised BPTC and BTT examinations - ie the three subject areas of Civil Litigation, Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics that are currently set and marked by the BSB - will not go ahead as planned. This is consistent with the advice about travel and social distancing. The next scheduled opportunity to take the centralised exams will be August 2020 but we will need to keep this under review as the situation develops.
Whilst we are not at present waiving the requirement to pass the BCAT, we recognise that in the current circumstances many students are now unable to take it. We have therefore taken the decision to suspend all registrations for the Test while we endeavour to find a solution that will not prevent students from commencing their Bar training this year as planned. Students should wait for further information here before trying to take or retake the BCAT.
On 26 March, we published some FAQs for current BPTC students, those intending to start the vocational component of Bar training in September, and current BTT students. You can read the latest version of these FAQs here.
Please do not contact the BSB but watch this website and look out for messages from your provider and Inn of Court. Details of arrangements for non-centralised examinations (ie those set and marked by Bar training providers) will be given to students by their Bar training providers.
Pupillages due to start in Autumn 2020
There is understandable concern about the impact of the Covid-19 situation on those who are due to commence pupillage in autumn 2020. Government advice is that the current measures may last for some months. At this stage, it is therefore clearly not possible to give any definite assurances about when it will be possible for potential pupils to fulfil all the requirements that they must do before commencing pupillage. These include provider-set exams, such as Advocacy, as well as Inns qualifying sessions and the BSB-set centralised exams. The impact on Chambers is also as yet not quantifiable. We are very conscious that this is an uncertain and worrying time but we will continue to talk to course providers and to the Inns and to work together to provide opportunities for requirements to be fulfilled at the earliest opportunity. Please continue to monitor this website and any messages from course providers and the Inns.
So that we can direct our resources in the most efficient way, rather than calling us, please continue to monitor this webpage, where we will be providing more information as our planning progresses.
Pupils and chambers / Authorised Education Training Organisations (AETOs) providing pupillages
On Friday 20 March, we 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.
Although our offices are now closed, the BSB is intending, as much as possible, to provide a “business-as-usual” service to barristers, students and members of the public during the coming weeks and months. 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 all 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.