BSB Regulatory Update - August 2022

Posted: 9/08/22

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