BSB passes regulatory test on advocacy quality

SRA: Outcomes still to be delivered

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has said the Bar Standards Board (BSB) now meets the standard it set for improving the quality of advocacy – unlike the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and CILEx Regulation (CR), whose work is ongoing.

In six-month updates to the performance report it published in January this year, the LSB said the BSB had done enough work to tackle the “advocacy quality risks” revealed during the development of the abandoned Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

By doing this, the BSB achieved the LSB’s key outcome that the regulators “provide assurance that standards are met” and if not take action – unlike the SRA and CR, which also regulate advocacy.

The LSB said the BSB had provided it with additional detail on its work to identify and respond to advocacy quality risks.

“This includes a focus on variable standards of advocacy in the youth courts, where it has undertaken spot checks of barristers registered to undertake youth court work.

“It is also planning to use its 2020 regulatory return process to provide evidence that will inform its future approach to assuring ongoing competence.

“We are satisfied that the BSB is progressing work that could be seen to help it to understand and respond to advocacy quality risks. However, we note that there is scope for a more coherent and systematic overall approach.”

The LSB added that it would expect the BSB to “engage with and respond to” its developing work on ongoing competence.

The oversight regulator said the SRA was “still in the process of deciding how to implement the changes identified in its advocacy review programme”.

The LSB went on: “It will consult on this from August 2019 [this has now been published] and intends to complete its consultation and analysis by the end of 2019. It is not clear when it will implement any changes following its consultation and analysis.

“Given that it is still unclear how the SRA will implement these changes, how they will address advocacy quality risks, and when it will do so, we cannot consider this outcome to be met.”

Turning to CR, the LSB said changes in its education and training review needed to be implemented to address advocacy risks.

“The education standards consultation, which includes proposals for the removal and replacement of QASA from CR’s rules, closed in February 2019, although CR decided to extend the consultation period to allow stakeholders sufficient time to respond.

“The anticipated rule change application in relation to QASA has therefore been delayed until September 2019. Our recent relationship management meeting indicated that the implementation of an outcome-focussed and risk-based approach to supervision is in development.”

The only other key outcome assessed as being met since the LSB’s January report was achieved by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC).

The oversight regulator said the CLC had published on its website revised information on complaints, confirming that the CLC will update complainants at regular intervals while the complaint moved through the enforcement process.

As a result, the CLC had achieved the key outcome of clearly explaining the reason for its decisions.

The SRA has two other outstanding outcomes: creating a new digital register of those it regulates – which should happen by the end of 2019 – and providing greater transparency about its operation.

The LSB will later this year be asked to judge the SRA’s move to increase transparency, which has not gone so far as to reopen its board meetings to scrutiny by journalists and others.

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