Sir Andrew Burns to stand down as BSB chair at the end of December

This will be my last piece for Barrister magazine. As many of you will know, I am standing down as the Chair of the Bar Standards Board at the end of December having completed my term. I want to open this article by saying what a privilege and honour it has been to chair the BSB for the last three years and to work with such dedicated and able colleagues on the Board and within the executive team. We have responded to numerous challenges along the way, but I am confident that regulation of the Bar is moving in a strong and sustainable direction – acting as we are obliged to do, first and foremost in the public interest, but at the same time supporting those we regulate to face the future.

I wish all those whom I have met during my time as Chair of the BSB my best wishes for the future. Meanwhile, let me update you with some of the things that we have been working on over these past few months.

Consultation about transparency standards at the Bar

 We have recently published a consultation outlining our proposed response to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) recommendations for more transparency about legal service providers’ fees, services and rights of redress for consumers. We agree with the CMA that making this information more accessible across the legal sector could promote competition and help consumers access legal services more easily. Our proposals recognise the unique challenges for the Bar – in particular with regard to the publication of fees – given most of the work undertaken by barristers is referred to them by solicitors and is often highly complex. Our view is that there must be a balance between improving consumer understanding and genuinely promoting competition on the one hand and not overburdening barristers and chambers or producing information overload for clients on the other. We think that we have outlined an approach that would achieve that balance.

Future Bar Training (FBT) consultation

As part of our ongoing Future Bar Training (FBT) programme, we recently launched a consultation on a number of aspects of the way in which barristers’ train and qualify. We are asking to what extent we should prescribe the role of the Inns of Court in the training and qualification of barristers and to explore what future rules and regulatory arrangements should be in place for pupillage. Our consultation paper recognises the historic and supportive role played by the Inns and by pupil supervisors in preparing new barristers for the realities of practice. We have no intention of changing what works well but we do want to deregulate in these areas if we can. For example, by removing certain prescriptive rules around pupillage, it may be possible to remove barriers to those parts of the Bar wanting to provide more innovative and flexible pupillage opportunities. We are also seeking views on a new framework which will enable training providers to develop new and innovative training programmes for aspiring barristers.

By seeking views on these important matters, we are keen to make sure that our rules governing pupillage and qualification remain fit for purpose over the long term. We want to build on what already works well in the current system and to encourage innovation and flexibility for the Bar in the way that work-based learning for barristers in delivered.

Have your say

 The transparency and FBT consultations close on the 5 and 8 January 2018 respectively and I would like to encourage as many of you as possible to respond to them. We are keen to hear your views about the best way forward and I know that many of you will have met my colleagues around the country in recent weeks as we hosted a number of events for barristers and other interested parties to have their say. Do not worry if you were unable to attend one of these events – there is still time to tell us what you think and to respond to our consultations which are available on our website.

New version of BSB Handbook introduces rules for shared parental leave

The latest version of the BSB Handbook was published at the start of November. There are a number of changes in this new version, including to the parental leave rules and to the Disciplinary Tribunal Regulations, in addition to some minor changes to provide additional clarity.

The change to the parental leave rules will require all chambers to have a policy that allows any member who becomes the carer of a child to take parental leave. Though the precise details of such policies are for individual chambers to decide, the new rule requires that flexible working arrangements be available to members during their parental leave. Both the Bar Council and the BSB will be producing additional guidance concerning this change, and chambers will have until November 2018 to update their policies.

Public and Licensed Access Rules

 We have also announced changes to the Public and Licensed Access Rules, following a positive response to the recent consultation on the subject. As a result of our review, we will:

  • continue not to apply the ‘cab rank’ rule to public and licensed access cases, as extending the rule to these cases could have a negative impact on access to justice;
  • remove the requirement for barristers who are of less than three years’ standing to maintain a Public Access log;
  • make a range of simplifications to make the Public and Licensed Access Rules less prescriptive and more proportionate; and
  • implement a number of amendments to the Licensed Access Rules, which permit certain expert clients to instruct barristers who have not undertaken public access training directly.

On a final note, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Christmas and a bright and prosperous New Year.

The barrister magazine thank Sir Andrew for his support during his tenure as BSB  chair and wish him all the very best for the future.

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