Many of you will be aware of recent criticisms of the BSB by the Bar Council and the Legal Services Board. The LSB are the oversight regulator for legal service regulators and the Bar Council retain an oversight role for our work in regulating the Bar, so they both have a role in raising any concerns they have about performance. In some areas, like the timeliness of investigations, which both the Bar Council and the LSB have raised, we agree that we need to improve and we are investing significantly in improving the timeliness of our handling of reports while maintaining the quality of our decision-making. We have faced significant staff shortages in recent years while dealing with a significant rise in the number and complexity of reports – we dealt with 2,517 reports in 2021-22 – that’s a 54% increase compared to 2020-21 – and maintaining the timeliness of dealing with reports of alleged misconduct has been an issue for a number of regulators in recent years. But we can and will do better and we are always of course prepared to learn from individual cases which we should have handled better. In other areas, like the handling of online exams which the LSB mention, we have already improved. For example, we have learned the lessons from the failures in delivering the exams in 2020 and there has not been and will not be any repeat. But in other areas our assessment of our performance is simply different from that of the LSB so we are discussing these issues with them.

While we will always prioritise the delivery of our core regulatory functions, it is important that we are also proactive in taking forward the broader regulatory objectives in the public interest. On this, we can point to important developments since my last blog. In early December, we published a number of important reports on Bar training, with the aim of improving transparency and providing potential students with accessible and comparable information on the different course providers at which they may consider studying. We also published two reports on our internal governance processes, namely the annual Regulatory Decision-making Report which details the effectiveness and performance of our regulatory operations and our latest Independent Decision-making Body (IDB) Annual Report, which sets out the work of the IDB over the last reporting period.

I am pleased to announce that my Board has appointed two new barrister members, Jeffrey Chapman KC and Simon Lewis. I look forward to working with them both when they take up their appointments in the New Year, as well as continuing to work with current barrister Board member Irena Sabic has also been reappointed for another four years.

On 7 December 2022, in collaboration with our Disability Taskforce, we held a well-attended event to hear from disabled barristers about their experiences navigating their careers at the Bar, the barriers that they have faced, and what factors have helped them to progress. The Taskforce also shared its vision of how regulation might play a part in supporting a more disability aware and inclusive profession and discussed examples of disability inclusion best practice across the profession. You can view the recording of the event on our YouTube channel. You can also view a short film commissioned by the Taskforce and filmed by Taskforce member Mary Griffiths Clark. which tells the stories of disabled people at different stages of their legal careers.

I would also like to draw your attention to the new minimum pupillage award of £20,703 for 12-month pupillages in London and £18,884 per annum for pupillages outside London, which will apply from 1 January 2023.

We also have a quick reminder for currently authorised Pupillage Training Organisations (PTOs) who have not yet submitted an application for seeking authorisation as Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs). If you have not yet submitted an application, you will need to complete an application to become an AETO before 31 December 2022.  Any existing pupillage provider who does not submit an application before 31 December 2022 and does not have current pupillages registered with us at that time will no longer be authorised to recruit pupils after 1 January 2023.

Finally, I would like to wish you all a peaceful and restful Christmas break. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Bar in the New Year to achieve our core regulatory objectives and to effectively address the challenges we all continue to face.

Kathryn Stone OBE



Also in this month’s online Regulatory Update: