The Bar Standards Board (BSB) now has the power to intervene in individual barristers’ practices among a host of other new regulatory tools that have been approved by Parliament.
The changes put the regulation of barristers on a statutory footing for the first time.
Legal Services Act 2007 (General Council of the Bar) (Modification of Functions) Order 2018 came into force last month after a lengthy process involving the BSB, Legal Services Board, Ministry of Justice and Parliament.
A revised version of the BSB Handbook is being published today as a result. The main changes, which largely bring it into line with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, are:
- BSB decisions can be appealed to the General Regulatory Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal;
- The BSB will be able to intervene in the practices of individual barristers and entities (it already has the power in relation to alternative business structures);
- The BSB will have the power to demand information and documents from individual barristers and entities for the purposes of assessing compliance with its rules, regulations and codes, with the ability to seek enforcement through the High Court;
- Putting the BSB’s disciplinary powers on a statutory footing and extending them to non-barristers working with barristers;
- Allowing the BSB to give permission for barristers to employ disqualified people; and
- Allow the BSB to set up some form of compensation fund, although there is no immediate plan to do this.
Speaking earlier this year to Parliament about the changes, justice minister Lucy Frazer said: “Barristers are regulated under a non-statutory regulatory regime, with barristers in effect consenting to be bound by the BSB’s rules and thus establishing a contract between them.
“That arrangement is underpinned by a series of agreements between the Bar Council, the Inns of Court, the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service and the BSB.
“In an ever changing legal services market, a contractual mechanism of regulation is simply not sustainable in the long term. The legal services market is continuing to evolve, with innovative businesses, which have different and novel business models, entering the market at a rapid rate…
“The Legal Services Board and the BSB believe that the interests of consumers and the public would be better protected if many of the BSB’s arrangements for regulation were placed on a statutory basis, as that would enable the BSB to react more effectively and efficiently to the rapidly changing nature of the market.”
Another order – the Legal Services Act 2007 (Appeals from Licensing Authority Decisions) (General Council of the Bar) Order 2018 – also came into force last month. This complements the first by enabling the First-tier Tribunal to hear and determine appeals in relation to decisions by the BSB.