21 September 2019

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair Sir Andrew Burns KCMG

As you can read in this issue, last month we published our draft Strategic Plan for 2016-19.

The next few years are likely to be critical to how a modern Bar adapts to changes in how consumers access the justice system and how their expectations of high-quality advocacy manifest themselves. The way in which the profession is regulated will be fundamentally important to this. We would very much like to know what you think of our strategic priorities for the BSB.

Our strategic vision has evolved. We propose to work on three themes we will deal with strategically: consumer needs, diversity and the economic pressures that you face. We set out how our work will be organised under three rubrics - regulating in the public interest; supporting the profession to face the future, and being a strong and sustainable regulator.

We also describe plans to increase our consumer engagement and simplify our information for them. Our new "Using a barrister" webpages are an example of this, targeted as they are at the public.

The key principle for our strategy is to build in more flexibility to enable greater resilience. In short we are future proofing; it's a three-year Strategic Plan with a five year horizon.

While we respond to change, our values remain the same. The Strategic Plan has become a clearer expression of our role in terms of public engagement. Still, we recognise that parts of the Bar are suffering and we want to help you to adapt.

Do let us any feedback you have on our draft Strategy.

Encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession is one of our statutory regulatory objectives. I was delighted to learn that our survey asking about the experiences of women at the Bar quickly garnered more than 1,300 responses. We are also keen to encourage all barristers to supply their diversity data via Barrister Connect so that the annual Aggregated Diversity Reports which we publish on the profession can be as accurate as possible.

I was pleased to meet such a diverse range of attendees, including members of the Bar and voluntary sector organisations, at our recent Cross Cultural Communication event. I hope that as we continue our work in this important area, we can maintain a similarly rich dialogue.

For all barristers, we want to ensure that commercial challenges do not adversely affect access to justice nor threaten regulatory independence. Conscious of the economic environment, we have a consultation open until 15 February seeking views on how we are funded.

Changes are afoot in the terms of how barristers are trained. Elsewhere in this issue you can read about the many responses to our recent consultation on Future Bar Training (FBT). While we know that the current system has many strengths, we are aware that there is room for improvement. Before Easter we expect to announce our likely options for FBT. We will also launch our consultation on the threshold standards which define precisely the level of competence for each area of knowledge, skill and attribute listed in the Professional Statement for a barrister at the point of full authorisation. 

We have been looking too at advocacy standards in all their guises notably within youth court proceedings. I hope that many of you have by now read the feature in Counsel Magazine where our Director of Supervision Oliver Hanmer reported on the findings of our review into this area. We are collaborating with key partners such as the Youth Justice Board with this work. Our meeting with its Chair Lord McNally at the end of January was most constructive. He is very supportive and enthusiastic about building on this research. We will be meeting with the Advocacy Training Council and with representatives from the profession as well to discuss the report and to see how we can work together to ensure that standards of advocacy within the Youth Courts are maintained. We shall update you on our plans in due course.