15 September 2019

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair Sir Andrew Burns KCMG

Last month, we announced our decision about the Future of Bar Training following our recent consultation. I should like to thank personally everyone who responded.
As always our starting point was the public interest. But throughout this process we have listened very carefully to your views and I am sorry if we ever gave the impression that we were not. Seven of our fifteen Board members are themselves practising barristers. We paid close attention to what we heard from the profession, providers, judiciary and members of the public. The views of your various representative bodies as well as of individual members of the Bar more widely were vital to us in reaching our decision.
We have decided to authorise a strictly limited number of future training routes for prospective students to qualify as barristers and we agreed with those who argued that authorising too many routes would not be wise. One of those routes is likely to be the one suggested by the Council of the Inns of Court/Bar Council which attracted such strong support in the consultation. The next step in the process is to produce a detailed Authorisation Framework which will enable us to assess future formal proposals for training against our criteria of:

  • flexibility (encouraging, for example, the options of part time study, distance learning and integration with paid work);
  • accessibility (offering support to students from under-represented groups);
  • affordability (improving the value for money of the present system); and
  • sustaining high standards (so that consumers can be certain that every barrister who begins practice has met the requirements of the  Professional Statement).

Again we will want to involve all our stakeholders in the preparation of that Framework and we hope to arrange a seminar soon to talk about the way forward. Thank you again for all your valuable input so far. We hope that you will continue to contribute to our discussions. Now that we have decided on the way forward, we want to see reform of Bar training as soon as possible.

You will recall that when we wrote to you about this topic on 24 March to inform you of our decision, we also published a  Policy Statement setting out our vision in more detail. Please do read this document because it provides more information about the next steps in bringing about this much-needed reform.
Separately from Bar training, the last few weeks have also seen us begin to license Alternative Business Structures (ABSs). This development should encourage further innovation in the provision of legal services. As the regulator for advocacy-based services, we hope that any barristers considering teaming-up with non-lawyers to form an ABS will consider us as the natural choice for authorisation. Please do get in touch with our team to discuss your plans. They will be happy to assist you.
Finally for this month, I would like to draw your attention to the article in this edition of Regulatory Update about our Business Plan for 2017-18. The Plan sets out our regulatory priorities for the year ahead.