21 September 2019

Professional Conduct Department

The Professional Conduct Department (PCD) works under the authority of the Professional Conduct Committee (formerly the Complaints Committee). We investigate complaints and, where appropriate, assist the Committee in taking action against barristers who have breached the rules in our Handbook.

The staff in the Professional Conduct Department have lots of experience in dealing with complaints and professional discipline. The department includes a number of lawyers, as well as staff who have worked in ombudsman services and in similar departments within other professional regulators.

Our main aims are to:

  • act in the public interest;
  • protect the public and other consumers of legal services;
  • maintain the high standards of the Bar;
  • promote confidence in the complaints and disciplinary process,
  • make sure that complaints about conduct are dealt with fairly,
    consistently and with reasonable speed.

Our objectives are to:

  • deal with complaints made against barristers promptly,
    thoroughly and fairly;
  • ensure appropriate action is taken against barristers who
    breach the rules in our Handbook; and,
  • be open, fair, transparent and accessible.

There are three teams in the Professional Conduct Department with a Director of Professional Conduct who oversees our work. The three teams are:

  1. The Assessment Team
  2. The Investigations and Hearings Team
  3. The Operational Support Team

We also have a Professional Support Lawyer in our department.  The Professional Support Lawyer is a PCD manager, but he is not attached to a particular team.  Instead, the Professional Support Lawyer helps to support us all with our work by making sure that we can easily access information that we need to do our jobs.


Director of Professional Conduct

The Director of the Department oversees the work and performance of the three teams and the Professional Support Lawyer.  The Director works with the Committee, the Board, other sections of the BSB and other external bodies relevant to the work of the Department, for example, the Council of the Inns of Court, the Bar Council, the Legal Ombudsman and the Legal Services Board. 

The Director is a member of the BSB's Senior Management Team and has responsibility for strategic business and financial planning. She can answer questions about the operation of the department and its procedures and give advice on departmental issues or matters connected to the wider work of the BSB.

Assessment Team

When a complaint first comes into the Professional Conduct Department, it is looked at by the Assessment Team.  This is the first stage of the process and the team decides if the complaint should be investigated.

The Assessment Team are also responsible for answering questions about making complaints; referring complaints to the Legal Ombudsman; and, dealing with complaints that we receive from the Legal Ombudsman. 

The Assessment Team have to decide quickly whether a complaint is going to be investigated by us because we aim to finish the first stage of the complaints work within eight weeks.

There are five members of staff in the Assessment Team: the Assessment Team Manager, two Assessment Officers; and two Professional Conduct Assistants who do the administrative work. Complaints are given to a member of the team, usually an Officer, who is responsible for ensuring that the right processes are followed. The team is able to provide advice on making and accepting complaints and about the interpretation of the BSB Handbook.

Investigations and Hearings Team

The Investigations and Hearings Team is responsible for carrying out formal investigations of complaints. They can dismiss complaints, impose administrative sanctions (warnings or fines) or refer cases to disciplinary action. 

The Investigations and Hearings team is the biggest team in the Professional Conduct Department.  It has 13 members divided into three units. Two of these units do casework and the other unit provides administrative support. Each unit has a supervisor who reports to the Investigations and Hearings Team Manager. The team can give advice on the investigation of complaints, the investigation process and the general complaints processes. The Investigations and Hearings Team Manager also works closely with the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service (BTAS) on other issues not connected to the daily administration of cases.

Operational Support Team

The Operational Support Team works across the whole Professional Conduct Department to support the work of the staff and the Professional Conduct Committee.  The team prepare meeting agendas, write notes of Committee and staff meetings, allocate cases to members of the Professional Conduct Committee and organise Committee training and annual appraisals.  The team is also responsible for producing statistical information from the complaints database, performance reports and policy and guidance documents for the Professional Conduct Committee and Professional Conduct Department. 

The Operational Support Team Manager is responsible for the finances of the Professional Conduct Department and for developing the strategic and business plans.

There are six members of staff in the Operational Support Team: a Manager, a Policy and Operational Support Officer, a Reports and Data Analysis Officer, one full time and two part time Professional Conduct Assistants. This team is in contact with members of the Professional Conduct Committee on a daily basis and can provide advice on Committee procedures.

Professional Support Lawyer

The Professional Support Lawyer is a PCD manager who reports directly to the Director of Professional Conduct. However, the role sits outside the three other teams. The Professional Support Lawyer is responsible for writing and developing important operational policy, procedure and guidance documents, and, making sure that information about the complaints system is shared with staff, Committee members and others who have contact with the Professional Conduct Department.