BSB lays out plan to take forward LETR

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11 October 2013

Barristers: robust competency framework to be developed

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has become the first frontline regulator to map out how it will take forward the Legal Education & Training Review (LETR).

The LETR, which was published in June, was commissioned by the BSB, Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards.

Earlier this week the BSB and Solicitors Regulation Authority were criticised for working in parallel on the LETR, rather than collaborating.

The BSB said: “Whilst the report draws a general conclusion that the existing framework meets current needs for competent practice, it points to significant change in the market for legal services that must find appropriate response in the training of future barristers, solicitors and legal executives.”

Having reviewed the report’s findings in light of work it has already been doing on education and training, the BSB said it will put a six-pronged programme in place as its response:

  • Developing a competency framework for barristers;
  • Aligning the Bar training regulations to modern regulatory standards;
  • Establishing an outcomes-focused approach to continuing professional development;
  • Sharing data to support our regulatory objectives in education and training;
  • Improving access routes to the profession; and
  • Collaborative development of regulation of the academic stage of legal education.

Initial development of these programmes will take place over the next six months.

The competency framework will provide “a systematic description of the knowledge and skills required by the practising barrister”, the BSB explained.

Publishing its plan, the BSB said: “A robust competency framework can be cross-referenced to the existing academic, vocational and work-based stages of training. It will provide a valuable tool to inform future development in each area, addressing the content-related recommendations of LETR and other, more specific needs within the barristers’ profession.”

On access and diversity, the BSB noted that the LETR made no recommendations “that specifically and exclusively address this need”, relying instead upon a call for equality and diversity to be addressed in the implementation of change across legal education and training.

“For the BSB, this will require a clear-sighted approach in mapping the valid routes to qualification, and exploring opportunities to integrate further the post-academic stages of training.”

Simon Thornton-Wood, the BSB’s head of education and training, said: “It is still early days since the publication of the LETR but this framework will help us to chart a course through a time of significant change in the legal services market. We will be developing these programmes in the coming months and will continue to publish more information on our priorities and progress during this period.”

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is set to publish its plans next week, while the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives is holding an LETR summit on Thursday to give the key players a chance to debate the way forward.

Meanwhile, the recent meeting of the main board of the BSB concluded that the over-representation of black and minority ethnic barristers in the regulator’s complaints is not due to the BSB’s complaints process.

The independent review by Inclusive Employers found that cases are dealt with in a way that is “transparent, consistent and fair”.

It suggested steps to improve aspects of the existing processes, such as further anonymising cases, that BSB director Dr Vanessa Davies said the regulator would act upon.

However, there are no specific plans to investigate further why the disproportionality exists.

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