20 Sep 2023

Following the conclusion of the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) consultation on conduct in non-professional life, the BSB Board has approved new guidance which we are publishing today. The guidance includes revised Social Media Guidance, new Guidance on the Regulation of Non-Professional Conduct, the BSB’s response to the consultation and revisions to BSB Handbook guidance.

The Guidance on the Regulation of Non-Professional Conduct seeks to clarify where the regulatory boundaries lie in relation to conduct that occurs outside the scope of a barrister’s professional practice. Such conduct may be of regulatory interest to the BSB because it can have an impact upon public confidence in the barrister or the profession. The rules and duties in the BSB Handbook which apply at all times include that barristers must not behave in a way which is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in them or in the profession, and that barristers must not do anything which could reasonably be seen by the public to undermine their honesty, integrity and independence.

The revised Social Media Guidance seeks to help barristers understand their duties under the BSB Handbook as they may apply to their use of social media, both in a professional and in a personal/private capacity. The sort of conduct that we may be concerned with includes: the use of language that is seriously offensive, discriminatory, bullying or harassing; linking to or reposting such content without indicating disagreement with it; gratuitous attacks on the judiciary or the justice system; or posting content which might breach client confidentiality. The Social Media Guidance also seeks to make clear that it is the manner in which barristers express their views that is more likely to concern us rather than the substance of that view (although the substance of a barrister’s view may also raise regulatory issues).

In developing these guidance documents, we have sought to strike a balance between barristers’ human rights and their professional obligations under the BSB Handbook. Commenting on the new guidance documents, BSB Director General Mark Neale said:

“After carefully considering the wide range of responses we received to our consultation, these revised guidance documents provide greater clarity rather than indicating a significant change to our approach. The documents explain more clearly how we will apply the existing rules and how we try to balance barristers’ obligations under the BSB Handbook with their rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.”


Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

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