Baroness Blackstone’s Blog 

This month, I would like to draw your attention to the BSB’s new equality strategy. which we published this week along with our new Research Strategy.  I am sure that you will all agree that there is a continuing need to improve the culture at the Bar, tackling discriminatory practice in all its forms and ensuring a supportive environment for all barristers and pupils. The strategy therefore seeks to promote the regulatory objective of encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession and to satisfy the BSB’s duties under the Equality Act. It also seeks to identify areas where the regulator is best placed to act, and where the BSB should seek to collaborate with the profession and others who share our objectives. Through the implementation of this enabling strategy, we aim to reduce the inequalities experienced at the Bar and to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

You will have seen that we recently issued guidance (see below) as to when failure to attend court might be seen as professional misconduct. We were asked to issue this guidance by members of the Bar. In principle, the Handbook does not prevent barristers from engaging in protests, but it may raise regulatory issues depending on the circumstances – please refer to the published statement.

If you are a barrister in self-employed practice and are keen to make a contribution to the regulation of barristers, we are currently seeking self-employed barrister members for our Independent Decision-Making Body and want to encourage a diverse range of people to support us in our modernisation of our decision-making processes. You can find more information and details on how to apply on our website.

This month, we will bid farewell to Elizabeth Prochaska who has been a member of the board since June 2019. I would like to thank Elizabeth for her work with us and wish her the very best for the future. We plan to recruit two more barristers to join the board in the coming months and will keep you informed of their appointments in due course.

Finally, I would like to let you know that this will be my last regulatory update blog, following my announcement in January that I will step down as chair this summer in order to focus on other activities.  We expect that my successor will be announced in August. I have very much enjoyed my time working with the BSB and with the profession and I leave my post with an appreciation of the importance of the Bar to society and to the rule of law and of the many challenges which you currently face. I offer every member of the Bar my very best wishes for the future.

 

Also in this month’s online Regulatory Update:

Statement on deliberately failing to attend court

Reshaping Legal Services conference, 13 October 2022

Authorisation to Practise deadline extended

BSB seeks self-employed barrister members for its Independent Decision-Making Body

Joint legal sector AML Guidance approved by HM Treasury

 

Baroness Blackstone’s Blog

In last month’s update I briefly referred to a speech which our Director General, Mark Neale, gave to the Legal Practice Management Association on 12 May. In that speech Mark made clear that we recognise that chambers have a very important role in promoting high standards, ensuring equality and inclusion, countering bullying and harassment and in facilitating access for consumers.  He also talked about how we want to encourage chambers to adopt best practice in these areas and, where they can, to go beyond the minimum regulatory requirements.

One of the key themes of the new three-year strategy we published in April was our desire to work in collaboration with others.  We completely agree with those who responded to our consultation on the strategy that we should avoid duplicating work that is being undertaken by the profession, and that we should only intervene where regulation is strictly necessary and where we can really add value.

This is just such an area for collaboration.  We want to draw on the evidence we have gathered through the Regulatory Return and to talk to chambers as to how best we can bring all our regulatory requirements guidance on good practice for chambers into one place.  And we want to do this in a way which will be helpful to chambers and which recognises the demands on them. So, we hope to hold a roundtable with chambers that would like to be involved in this discussion in the early Autumn. Do please email communications@barstandardsboard.org.uk if you would like to take part.

While we see promoting equality, diversity and inclusion as one of the key tasks of chambers, we know we also have a vital part to play so I should also like to draw your attention to a statement Tackling counter-inclusive misconduct through disciplinary processes  which has been signed by all the legal service regulators and the two disciplinary tribunal providers.  The statement sets out our commitment to tackling counter-inclusive misconduct, which is conduct which intentionally or unintentionally has the effect of narrowing or denying opportunities to people because of their background or characteristics.

Finally, I hope that those of you who are pupil supervisors will read this article regarding mandatory refresher training.  I should also like to remind you again of the need to comply fully with the sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Do please keep an eye on our website which includes guidance to help you.

 

Also in this month’s online Regulatory Update:

The legal regulators reaffirm their commitment to creating a more inclusive profession

BSB appoints a further new member to its Advisory Pool of Experts (APEX)

Authorisation to Practise deadline extended