Bar Council fails governance test again while Law Society goes to the wire

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By Legal Futures

26 September 2011

Kenny: no caveats next year

The Bar Council is once again not compliant with the rules on ensuring the independence of its regulatory arm, the Legal Services Board (LSB) has decided – while the Law Society’s compliance remains unresolved.

However, LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said it is willing to give the Bar Council one more year to get its house in order – even though last year it committed to being fully compliant by 1 January 2012.

The LSB raised various areas where the Bar Council and Bar Standards Board (BSB) are non-compliant, including: the failure to have a lay majority on the BSB (which will happen in January); questions over whether the BSB has the access it needs to resources; and oversight of the BSB by the Bar Council.

“Next year we will continue our risk-based approach to assessing and, where necessary, enforcing the delivery of independent regulation; and would expect that, in the third year of assessment, there would not be the need for caveats as to the adequacy of implementation,” Mr Kenny concluded.

Last week the BSB announced the appointment of five new lay board members from January, meaning it will have eight lay and seven barrister members. The new members are:

  • Rolande Anderson, a director of Genesis Housing. As a former senior civil servant, her appointment is subject to approval by the Prime Minister;
  • Rob Behrens, chief executive of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in England and Wales and from 2006-8 the BSB’s complaints commissioner;
  • Tim Robinson, an accountant who has moved into consultancy after a career as a human resources specialist at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Accenture;
  • Andrew Sanders, professor of criminal law and criminology at the University of Birmingham where he is also the head of the school of law. He is also a member of the Criminal Justice Council; and
  • Dr Anne Wright CBE, chairwoman and commissioner of the National Lottery Commission, with an executive past in higher education.

Sarah Brown, John Carrier, Charles Hollander QC and Simon Monty QC are all leaving the board, and BSB chairman Baroness Deech praised their contribution and “invaluable service to the Bar in the public interest”.

The LSB has already issued its decision on the compliance of the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX), the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and Association of Costs Lawyers. ILEX was the only one to receive a completely clean bill of health, while the Law Society is the only approved regulator without a decision.

With the SRA not moving to a lay board majority until 2013, it should fail the compliance test, but the other sticking points are not known. The LSB committed in its business plan to finishing this process by the end of its second quarter, which is this week.

An LSB spokesman said: “The business plan committed the LSB to ensuring that regulators are independent in practice as well as in structure and discussions are continuing between the Law Society and SRA to provide us with the proper assurance in respect of their arrangements for now and for the future. We expect these discussions to reach a prompt and productive conclusion.”

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