Cost of barrister regulation soars

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29 May 2013


Bar: £8.2m cost of regulation

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is already projecting a £161,000 overspend on its 2013-14 budget, which itself is £1.2m (or 30%) higher than the previous 12 months, Legal Futures can report.

The BSB’s financial year only began on 1 April but the recent meeting of its main board heard that a lack of budgeted resource for education projects – and in particular the Bar course aptitude test – is responsible for around 60% of the forecast overspend.

The BSB and Bar Council agreed the higher budget for this financial year after regulation ate up £460,000 of the Bar Council’s reserves in 2012-13.

The £1.2m increase is mainly because of “the pressure of implementing the regulatory standards framework”, according to the BSB’s business plan, which was published last month.

The framework is laid down by the Legal Services Board (LSB) and has four key pillars: outcomes-focused regulation, risk assessment, supervision and enforcement. Each regulator has to show sufficient capacity and capability to regulate in those key areas. The LSB’s assessment of how the BSB is currently performing against these is due to be published shortly.

The increase will be offset in part by an expected rise in non-practising certificate fee income of £432,000 to £1.8m. It appears that the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates accounts for this. The BSB is expecting income of £452,000 for initial accreditation applications, and a further £35,000 from barristers progressing up the levels.

The two main heads of the BSB’s expenditure are governance/management (£1.6m) and disciplinary/enforcement activities (£1.4m).

When premises costs of £678,000 and shared services of £2.1m are taken into account, the total cost of regulation for barristers is £8.2m. The LSB is to launch a major investigation into the cost of regulation across the legal profession.

Meanwhile, Alistair MacDonald QC has been named the vice-chairman-elect of the Bar Council following a contested election. He will take up the post on 1 January 2014 with a view to becoming chairman a year later.

Mr MacDonald is co-head of New Park Chambers in Leeds, which has just lost a bid to take on an ex-chief constable as a pupil without paying her. His practice is now principally in crime although he used to do a broad spread of work including personal injury and administrative law. He is the leader of the North-Eastern Circuit and has sat as a Recorder in crime and civil since 1995.

Nicholas Lavender QC, who practises commercial law from Serle Court Chambers, will be the 2014 chairman.

Also, the Bar Council has finally appointed a new chief executive, two years after David Hobart left to take up the same role at the City of London Law Society.

Stephen Crowne, who will take up the post next Monday, was most recently as senior director, global education at IT company Cisco. Formerly a senior civil servant, before Cisco he was chief executive of the British Educational Technology & Communications Agency, the government agency charged with promoting technology in learning.

The appointment panel included representatives from the Bar Council and Bar Standards Board.



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