Kathryn Stone OBE Blog

We delayed publication of this month’s Regulatory Update as the BSB joined in mourning the loss of Her Majesty the Queen.  We offer our sincere sympathy to His Majesty the King and all the Royal Family at this time of great sadness.  May the memory of her commitment to public service continue to inspire us all.

This is my first blog as the new Chair of the Bar Standards Board.  I must begin by thanking my distinguished predecessor, Tessa Blackstone, for her excellent work over the past four years and to wish her well for the future.  I’ve been a member of the Board since the start of 2018 and I have a keen appreciation of the vital role that the Bar plays in our national life.  I’m also very aware of the challenges you currently face, especially at the publicly funded Bar.

I am particularly conscious of the current action by members of the criminal Bar.  It is for the Bar Council and not the Bar Standards Board to represent the interests of barristers themselves. At the BSB our primary concern is to ensure that barristers meet their duties to the court and to their clients in the public interest.  However, we also believe that our regulatory objectives of improving access to justice, protecting and promoting the interests of consumers and encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession can only be achieved if the publicly funded Bar is able to work effectively.  We therefore hope for a speedy resolution to the current dispute.

Some of you may have heard of me in my other role as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, a post which I’ll be leaving at the end of this year as my term of office ends.   Before that I was the Chief Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales.  So I have many years’ experience of working with consumers and legal service providers and, I hope, a good understanding of their different perspectives.  I’ve also been a Commissioner with the Independent Office for Police Conduct and at the Commission for Victims and Survivors in Northern Ireland.

I began my career as a social worker and have spent my entire life in public service. I have a lifelong commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.   I hope to use this experience to lead the BSB in promoting and maintaining the highest standards of professional conduct. I’m very conscious that there are areas where the BSB needs to improve our performance and I look forward to working with all our stakeholders to ensure that the BSB will be the best it can be.

Equally, the BSB cannot neglect its responsibility to pursue, in partnership with the profession, its wider regulatory responsibilities to consumers, to the rule of law and to the strength and diversity of the profession itself – summarised in our strategic priorities of “standards, equality and access”.  I very much look forward to meeting some of you at the meetings we shall be holding around the Circuits over the next few months to look at the important contribution which chambers can make to these priorities.  I hope these meetings will also give you an opportunity to give me your wider views about the BSB’s priorities directly.

Meanwhile the BSB has a busy agenda.  Please do offer us your views on our proposed approach to the regulation of non-professional conduct and on barristers’ use of social media – our current public consultation ends on Thursday 20 October.

Those of you at the employed Bar may also be interested in an event which, together with the Bar Association for Commerce, Finance and Industry (BACFI), we are holding on Wednesday 5 October to explain the process of becoming an Employed Pupillage Provider.

You’ll also find some interesting forthcoming events hosted by Law Care and the Legal Services Board listed in this issue too.

Finally, as you may have seen, we are also recruiting two new Board members from the practising Bar to govern and oversee the work of the BSB.  Our Board is made up of six lay members and five barristers and we are keen to reflect both the diversity of the UK and the diversity of practice at the Bar.  So I do hope we will receive applications from a wide range of backgrounds. Please see our website to apply.  The closing date is 9.00 am on Monday 3 October.

I very much look forward to working with the Bar and with all our stakeholders over the coming years.

Kathryn Stone OBE

Chair

 

Also in this month’s online Regulatory Update:

BSB consultation on the regulation of non-professional conduct and on proposed new Social Media Guidance and interim Social Media Guidance

BSB amends its Minimum Terms of Cover for Professional Indemnity Insurance in relation to cyber incidents

BSB publishes two new research reports on Bar vocational training providers’ equality and diversity policies and practices, and on students’ experiences on Bar training courses

Recruitment of external examiners for Bar training

Becoming an Employed Pupillage Provider – how to navigate the process

Authorisations Team Update

LawCare’s inaugural conference, 28 September 2022

Reshaping Legal Services conference, 13 October 2022

BSB seeks two new barrister Board members

BSB seeks two new barrister Board members

Director General’s Blog

This month’s Regulatory Update comes from me, as the Director General of the Bar Standards Board, while we await the arrival of Kathryn Stone OBE as our new Chair.  Kathryn formally takes up her role on 1 September.  As you know, Baroness Blackstone stepped down from her post at the end of July and the Board appointed Kathryn on the recommendation of an independent appointment panel and after an open competition which attracted a strong field of candidates.  Kathryn has been a Board member since January 2018 and we have greatly valued her advice and support over the past four years.  She has had a distinguished career in public life – most recently in her current role as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards – and I very much look forward to working with her in her new role as our Chair

In July we published our consultation on the regulation of non-professional conduct and on proposed new Social Media Guidance.  We also published interim Social Media Guidance, revising the previous guidance. We are seeking to clarify where the boundaries should lie in the regulation of conduct that occurs in your private/personal life (which we refer to as “non-professional life” or “non-professional conduct”). In doing so, we are keen to ensure that we strike the right balance between preserving public confidence in the profession and your human rights. We hope that everyone with an interest in these issues will take this opportunity to contribute their views before 5pm on 20 October.

Last month, we also published the Differential outcomes on the Bar Professional Training Course – 2014-2020 Report, which presents research conducted into differential outcomes for different demographic groups/characteristics (such as age, and ethnicity) of modules on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The Report highlights some important issues which will inform our evaluation of  the new Bar Course and our wider work on equality and diversity.

Last month we also published two new reports on compliance with our transparency rules and the impact on consumers of these rules. The former Report shows that the Bar has made encouraging progress in ensuring compliance with the transparency rules, as only 6% of those assessed during the period in question were neither compliant nor partially compliant with the rules. This result is a significant improvement on the figure of 25% from 2020. The latter Report was conducted to explore the impact on legal consumers of the transparency rules by looking at a number of key indicators relating to the objectives of the rules. The Report shows that the rules have had a number of positive impacts for consumers: for example, there has been an increase in those obtaining details of service or price before choosing a barrister and a decrease in the levels and proportions of complaints that relate to overall cost and clarity of information around costs. The percentage of clients ‘shopping around’ when choosing a barrister also appears to have increased.

Red Alert has been issued by the National Economic Crime Centre and the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) to provide information about some common techniques being used to evade financial sanctions.  Although we know that the number of barristers who are likely to have any dealings with sanctioned individuals is very small, I do hope that you will all take note of this important announcement.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to attend an important upcoming event. On 15 September we will hold our first Disability Taskforce event, where we will hear from disabled barristers about their experiences navigating their careers at the Bar and our Disability Taskforce will share their vision on how regulation might play a part in supporting a more disability aware and inclusive profession. It will also be an opportunity to learn about disability inclusion best practice across the profession.

 

Also in this month’s online Regulatory Update:

BSB publishes two new reports on transparency rules

BSB Disability Taskforce event: Being disabled at the Bar: the regulator’s perspective on supporting disabled talent

Red Alert about sanctions evasion issued by the National Economic Crime Centre

Reshaping Legal Services conference, 13 October 2022