The Legal Services Board (LSB) has launched its review of the quality of the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) decision-making – but is not going to look at the controversy around last month’s Bar exams.
We revealed in April that the oversight regulator had decided to conduct the review, triggered by the BSB’s widely criticised decision last year to stop funding the cross-regulator Legal Choices website.
The terms of the review have now been published, and the LSB said it would focus on the BSB’s decision-making processes in the two years to March 2020.
“The LSB considers that this time period provides a reasonable window in which it can consider a range of decisions and which should be manageable for the BSB in sourcing information.
“It will also ensure that the LSB is able to review the full range of decision-making steps the BSB followed in the lead up to the decision its board made to withdraw from involvement in Legal Choices.”
The events that led to the review predate lockdown but critics have questioned the decisions the BSB has taken over the exams. However, an LSB spokesman confirmed that “we are not expecting at this stage to extend the period covered by the review”.
At the time the review was announced, the BSB accused the LSB of turning “a straightforward disagreement about policy [on Legal Choices] into a governance issue”.
The review will assess the effectiveness of the decision-making processes, following three key lines of enquiry.
The first is how the governance framework supports decision-making. The LSB said it would seek assurance that both the role of the main board and its relationship with the executive were clear.
The second will look at how the executive and the board make and implement decisions.
The LSB said it wanted to be sure decisions “are based on appropriate evidence and analysis and that proposals are properly evaluated” and include consideration of the impact of the decision on the regulatory objectives, in particular protecting and promoting the interests of consumers.
Finally it will seek more information about how decisions were communicated
The aim is to finalise and publish a report by March 2021.
The LSB has also launched a similar review in relation the Faculty Office, which regulates notaries.
This will assess the transparency of its decision-making processes, including governance arrangements for delegation; how these processes allow for effective decision making; and the extent to which learning is used to inform the office’s decision making and regulatory approach.
A report is due by February 2021.