The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is to review the role of the Inns of Court in the training of barristers, it has emerged.
The BSB agreed at its meeting in March that students should continue to be members of the Inns, and the inns should continue to call them to the Bar.
However, at its board meeting last week, the BSB said it wanted to review the other roles of the inns in training. These include controlling admission to an inn, approving pupil supervisors and their training, providing training courses for pupils and student discipline.
The BSB said it would set out the role of the inns in the context of its new Future Bar Training regime by early next year, before seeking the approval of the Legal Services Board.
The regulator said its statutory duties under the Legal Services Act required it to be satisfied “from first principles” that regulatory arrangements involving the inns were “necessary and proportionate”.
The review would “map the inns’ current activities within the BSB’s regulatory arrangements”, assess “the extent to which these arrangements remain necessary and proportionate in the light of the professional statement and our new approach to Bar training”, and, where they remained necessary, “consider the governance arrangements that would ensure appropriate regulatory oversight by the BSB”.
The BSB said it hoped, prior to the implementation of its proposals, to sign a “memorandum of understanding” with the inns clarifying roles and responsibilities.
Before this could happen, the BSB needed to be “clear about our thinking on any points of principle about the inns’ role” and consider them at its July board meeting.
In a related move, the BSB said it would launch a pupillage supervision pilot this autumn.
“Whilst we currently require pupils and pupil supervisors to complete prescribed checklists for pupillage training, in future we envisage this being done in a more flexible way, focusing on the competences in the professional statement.”
The regulator said it would ask six to 10 pupillage training organisations to take part in the pilot, both chambers and the employed Bar and would implement any changes in 2018-19.
“As part of the pilot we will be considering some wider questions, including the length and structure of pupillage that we currently prescribe (i.e non-practising and practising periods of six months each) and the one-to-one relationship between pupils and pupil supervisors that our rules require.
“These are issues that have been particularly highlighted by the employed Bar.”
Also at last week’s meeting, the BSB agreed to change the equality rules to enable all self-employed barristers in chambers to take parental leave, regardless of whether their spouse or partner takes parental leave.
The parental leave entitlement should constitute, as a minimum, a period of one year away from practice, the BSB said, though there would be no obligation to take the full entitlement.
The rule should apply to all mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents, as well as the married, civil, and de facto partners of biological or adoptive parents.
The BSB said chambers’ parental leave policies should allow parental leave to be taken flexibly, to enable barristers to maintain their practice and support their income while on leave; and
BSB director of strategy and policy, Ewen MacLeod, said: “Our consultation paper asked whether self-employed barristers should be able to share their parental leave entitlements, as employed barristers can, or whether each parent should have their own parental leave rights regardless of their partner’s employment status or parental leave rights.
“The majority of respondents favoured a rule change and most of those who wanted a change chose the latter option as being fairer and less bureaucratic. Having considered the issues carefully with our expert advisers, we agree.
“The rule change will allow barristers to share parenting, by allowing them to take whatever leave they want up to a whole year, without having to compromise the other parent’s ability to also take a whole year of parental leave.
“We think this could help the Bar to retain those with parental responsibilities by making it easier for self-employed barristers to combine work and family life. This could help with efforts to encourage more gender diversity within the profession, especially at the senior end.”