05 November 2013

New chambers' supervision strategy launched

From January 2014, all chambers will be required to participate in new supervision arrangements, set out by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) today.

Under the new scheme, the BSB will assess how effectively chambers and sole practitioners are managing potential risks such as ineffective governance and inadequate pupillage training.

Those identified as 'high risk' will be supported by the BSB to reduce the likelihood of serious problems occurring. Well-run chambers, which set out and comply with clear policies on matters such as complaints handling and pupillage training, will gain a low risk rating and will have little contact with the BSB. This means that resources will be concentrated on those who need it most.

Next spring, chambers will receive an Impact Audit survey designed to first identify the impact that any potential breach of the regulatory rules would have on the public and consumers.

Most chambers will then have to complete a Supervision Return form - detailing how effectively potential risks are being managed to help the BSB determine the likelihood of them actually materialising.

Those chambers that are seen to be managing risks less effectively will receive more supervisory support.

The Bar Standards Board's Head of Quality, Oliver Hanmer, said: "We all know that prevention is better than cure. This new approach is about smarter regulation for the Bar and better protection for the public. Working with us to prevent potential risks materialising will mean minimising the amount of supervision chambers receive, and a more targeted use of resources on our part."

The risks that chambers and individuals will be assessed against include

  • Ineffective or dishonest governance
  • Provision of a poor service to clients
  • Insufficient consideration of equality and diversity in administration or service delivery
  • Inadequate or unfair pupillage or training
  • Incompetent or dishonest financial management

Further details and examples under each risk can be found here.

For chambers to manage risk effectively and enjoy minimal contact with the BSB, they should:

  1. Ensure their chambers' contact details and records with the Bar Council Records department are up-to-date.
  2. Appoint a member as the chambers' point of contact with the regulator;
  3. Respond promptly in returning the Impact Audit and Supervision Return;
  4. Be honest and open in recognising and managing potential risks; and
  5. Be aware of risks and take appropriate measures to reduce the likelihood of risks materialising.

The new supervision strategy will replace the old Chambers Monitoring system under which over 700 Chambers in England and Wales were contacted to verify compliance in key areas.

The Impact Audit and Supervision Returns will operate more flexibly than the previous Chambers Monitoring system; they will be sent out as and when required, informed by the chambers' previous risk rating.

For more information visit www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/supervision or get in touch via bsbcontactus@barstandardsboard.org.uk


Notes to editor

Guidance on the new supervision strategy can be found here.

The risk-based supervision consultation ended in June 2013 and can be accessed here.

Contact: the Bar Standards Board Press Office on 0207 611 1452.