The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has apologised for the “inordinately slow” progress in implementing Legal Services Act changes that will enable barristers to practice in novel ways, as it set out a timetable for broadening its reach into entity regulation.
Director Vanessa Davies told delegates at last weekend’s Bar annual conference that the BSB hoped to get approval from the Legal Services Board to regulate entities owned and managed by lawyers by Christmas.
She hoped to open the door for applications in January, with the first entities registered in April.
Vice-chair Patricia Robertson QC said the BSB aimed to work with “early adopters” to pilot the application process ahead of the go-live date to ensure it is as “smooth and efficient” as possible and to give it an understanding of where any “pinch points” might be.
As a “later adopter” of the new regulatory powers, Ms Davies said she hoped the BSB had learned from the experiences of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
She declined to give an estimate of how long the approval process would take, but pledged to set service standards once the BSB had gained experience of the process.
Turning to alternative business structures, which allow for ownership and investment by non-lawyers, Ms Davies said the BSB aimed to submit its application to the LSB by Christmas. Her “best guess” was that it would take at least six months to get approval.
“We have made our best efforts and with the full co-operation of the LSB to telescope the timescales,” she said, but added: “There is no denying it – it’s been slower than we would like it to be.”
Also voicing frustration at the languor, Ms Robertson said “translating ideas into action has taken longer than we hoped”.
“It has been inordinately slow as matters stand. I can only apologise, but say we are doing are best,” she said.