Single statement of skills for solicitors and barristers “not possible”, BSB admits

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16 April 2015

Dr Simon Thornton-Wood

Thornton-Wood: “invaluable point of reference”

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said that producing a “common document” on the knowledge and skills required by solicitors and barristers has “not proved possible”.

The BSB launched a consultation on its draft professional statement for barristers yesterday, while the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published a competence statement for solicitors at the start of this month.

“The first stages of the professional statement development were conducted in consultation with the SRA, with the aim of producing a common structure,” the BSB said.

“In order to produce a professional statement that adequately represents the requirements of the Bar, a common document has not proved possible.”

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However, the BSB said the comparable work of the SRA had remained an “integral part of the process” for developing its statement and there was a “significant and deliberate consistency of approach between the two professional regulatory bodies”.

The BSB said the professional statement, part of its Future Bar Training programme, would provide a “clear and objective point of reference” for the regulation of training for the Bar and developing alternative “pathways”.

The statement is intended to provide a starting point for the development of “threshold standards” to be expected from any barrister at the point of being issued a full practising certificate.

At the end of the nine-page draft statement, the BSB says newly-qualified barristers should “demonstrate a good awareness of their additional responsibilities in cases involving direct access and litigants in person”.

Barristers must “understand and apply the relevant elements of the code of conduct” and “in particular the need to maintain a balance between their duty not to take unfair advantage and their duty to the court.

“They will recognise and appreciate the potential lack of understanding where clients or opponents have an inadequate knowledge of the law and procedure compared with those whose cases are conducted through qualified legal advisers and the effect this may have on the handling of a matter.”

Dr Simon Thornton-Wood, director of education and training for the BSB, said the professional statement would provide an “invaluable point of reference” for anyone designing the training of barristers.

“It will mean providers and trainers can focus more on instilling in students the knowledge and skills required to practise and thrive at the Bar, and less on ensuring the details of their course meet previously prescriptive regulations. Ultimately we hope that greater flexibility will lead to more affordability, too.”

Dr Thornton-Wood added that the BSB wanted to work closely with the profession to create a statement “that reflects what barristers really do”.

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