21 August 2019

BSB Chair Sir Andrew Burns sets his vision for the future of the Bar regulator

5 October 2015

In his first keynote speech as Chair of the Bar Standards Board (BSB), Sir Andrew Burns urged barristers and key stakeholders to engage with the regulator on the future direction of Bar regulation at a networking function tonight at Lincoln's Inn.

The BSB is in the third and final year of its current three-year strategic plan. Sir Andrew sought input from attendees about what the Bar regulator should focus on in the next strategic plan for 2016-2019.

Sir Andrew said: "The most significant changes to legal regulation have been changing consumer demands and expectations, technological advances and global competition. These factors place both the public interest and the free market above preservation of traditional practices and what some see as 'vested interests'.

"We're already seeing the effect of some of these pressures in the market. To highlight just a few - increasing numbers of Litigants-in-Person, reductions in public funding and reform of the Court system."

Sir Andrew highlighted two main tasks in the coming years for the BSB:

  1. To reconcile in the public interest our understanding of how best to maintain the rule of law and improve access to justice with, on one hand, changing consumer needs and expectations and, on the other hand, the ability of the Bar to adapt and prosper in an exacting environment.
  2. To reconcile high professional standards for entry to and practice in the profession with an increasingly strong drive from government to lower the costs of legal services, reduce regulation and red tape, promote competition and innovation and encourage the emergence of disruptive new business models.

One of the key elements in the BSB's next strategic plan is the need for it to become a more risk based regulator.  Taking a risk-based approach to our role means that we:

  • look to understand where things are going wrong for consumers and where the rule of law is being put at risk, and;
  • focus on the areas where we can make the biggest difference, allocating our regulatory resources accordingly.

Sir Andrew went on to identify three broad themes relating to risk which the regulator is asking for help to address:

  1. There is the risk of the profession failing to meet changing consumer needs, driven by new avenues opened up by technology and further complicated by  low levels of public understanding of what is already available from the legal profession.
  2. There is a risk that discrimination, lack of diversity and outmoded working practices limit the profession's ability to meet effectively the needs of a diverse range of consumers who need and rely upon legal services.
  3. Economic pressures, market uncertainty and commercial strain could affect the quality, independence, availability and supply of legal services.

Sir Andrew said, "The BSB would like to nurture a deep dialogue with the profession and consumers so that what we propose and what we do can be demonstrably and incontestably evidence-based and risk-focused.

"We want to take a 360 degree look at some of the key issues we have identified in the Bar to build stronger insights and target more effective interventions where they may be needed.  We are looking for new and creative ways to do this.

"This sort of engagement with experts, innovators and key stakeholders is core to the new way of working at the Bar Standards Board."

A full transcript of Sir Andrew's speech is available on our website.


Notes to editors

About Sir Andrew Burns

Sir Andrew Burns joined the BSB as Chair on 1 January 2015, following a long career in the Diplomatic Service. He was the UK Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues since 2010 to 2015 and was Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2014/15. His past roles include British High Commissioner to Canada (2000-2003), British Consul-General in Hong Kong and Macau (1997-2000) and British Ambassador to Israel (1992-1995).  He chairs Hestercombe Gardens Trust and the International Polar Foundation-UK and is a Governor of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 1452 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk .