The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has launched a pilot scheme to test plans to replace its hours-based CPD system with a new scheme in 2017. The pilot, launched last month, will run until March next year.
The move comes as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) waits for approval from the Legal Services Board (LSB) of the rule changes needed to scrap its hours-based system.
As well removing the requirement to undertake a number of CPD hours, the BSB’s new scheme aims to put the emphasis on “individual responsibility” for learning, rather than simply “measuring the effort involved”.
Barristers will be asked to record and keep evidence of their training and “reflect on what they have learnt” and its significance to their practice.
Where barristers are not complying with their CPD requirements and putting their ability to practise competently at risk, the BSB has promised to “monitor and supervise” them.
Dr Simon Thornton-Wood, director of education and training at the BSB, said: “We think barristers should be in charge of identifying their own training and development needs as they themselves are best placed to chart the course of their careers.”
He said the BSB had agreed to waive the current CPD requirements for those taking part, in exchange for their involvement.
“However, it’s really important to stress that barristers who are not part of the pilot still need to complete the CPD requirements as usual and we’ll still be conducting random spot-checks of barristers’ record cards.
“Ultimately, the pilot and the changes we’re proposing to the CPD scheme are all part of our ongoing work as a regulator to set and maintain high standards of practice in the profession.”
The BSB has described its existing CPD scheme as “prescriptive” and said it focused solely on the acquisition of legal knowledge. It plans to publish more details of the new scheme in a consultation later this year.
In its pilot invitation document, the BSB said: “We want to understand the potential challenges and pitfalls of our new scheme so that we can make improvements before it goes live in 2017.
“The pilot will help us to find out how best we can support the profession to help everyone understand their obligations under the new scheme. We can then make sure the guidance we offer is as effective as possible.”
In papers for last month’s board meeting, the BSB said the number of CPD courses it accredited continued to grow – from 6.899 in 2010 to 8,382 in 2013.
The regulator said this was “attributable in large part to growth in the number of available online”, from 1,438 in 2012 to 1,589 in 2013.
The BSB introduced a new version of its accreditation scheme on 1 January this year, under which providers “self-accredit” their CPD courses and events. The Bar Council has warned of a potential “cost to quality” in the move.
The LSB is expected to approve the SRA’s CPD rule changes later this month. Under an extension notice the super-regulator issued last month, it has until 22 March this year to make up its mind.
ILEX Professional Standards, the regulator of chartered legal executives, was the first to move to a CPD scheme not based on accumulating hours.
Meanwhile, the BSB has also decided that with the continuing uncertainty over the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates – with the Supreme Court still to decide whether it will hear an appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision to reject four barristers’ challenge to it – “we should in the meantime explore other ways in which we can properly protect the public from poor standards of advocacy”. It has not specified what these could be.