The Bar Council has called on the Legal Services Board (LSB) not to recruit more staff during the coronavirus crisis.
Chambers have been hit hard by the pandemic, with the Bar Council warning last week that 55% would go out of business within six months without help from the government.
Responding to plans by the LSB to introduce systematic monitoring of regulatory independence to ensure that approved regulators obey its revised internal governance rules (IGR), the Bar Council said it was “mindful of the fact” that the LSB was funded by the profession.
“Consequently, we question whether it is necessary for the LSB to recruit two new members of staff, as we believe they are doing, to do this task and whether instead, the function could be fulfilled using existing resources.
“This is particularly pertinent considering the pressure that barristers are currently experiencing on their earning capacity as a result of restrictions on their work caused by coronavirus.”
Legal Futures understands that the advertisement for two regulatory policy managers is actually filling existing roles, rather than creating new ones.
There are currently six approved regulators caught by the IGR, which ensure regulatory work is kept separate from representative matters: the Law Society, Bar Council, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Association of Costs Lawyers, Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys
Each has until July this year to submit a certificate of compliance with the revised IGR, after which the LSB will introduce ongoing monitoring.
The LSB proposed monitoring the approved regulators, as part of its regulatory performance framework, through “relationship management meetings” two or three times a year. It is in this context that the Bar Council has appealed to the LSB not to recruit two additional members of staff.
Otherwise, the Bar Council said it understood the purpose of the new monitoring system and “broadly, the system that will be used”.
It asked for greater clarity on the structure of submissions required by the LSB on regulatory independence, and the information being sought.
“It would be helpful to better understand the purpose of the meetings with the relationship manager and to be alerted to any specific questions or agenda items the LSB might have in advance of these meetings.”
The Bar Council added that it would be “interested to understand why the formal enforcement powers would be used” in the event of a breach by an approved regulator of the IGRs and not the framework applied to other regulatory breaches.