21 September 2019

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair Sir Andrew Burns KCMG

Over the next few weeks, we are going to be issuing two very important consultations. With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to give you a flavour of what we will be considering here in my blog.

The first will be a policy consultation ontransparency standards at the Bar.The Competition and Market Authority (CMA) has recommended that we and the other legal service regulators should introduce new price and service disclosure requirements, and we believe that this will be in the interest of consumers provided it is done in the right way. So we want to consult you about how you can be more transparent with consumers about your services, your fees and the rights of redress which you offer to consumers.

We are aware of some of the unique challenges for the Bar with regard to fee transparency, but we want to learn more about these from you, and to hear your views as to how the CMA's recommendations might best be reflected in our regulations.

In order to inform our approach to this consultation, we have already interviewed consumer organisations, Bar representative groups and individual barristers. There is already much good practice with regard to transparency being undertaken at the Bar. We want to consider how best to build upon this in order to comply with the CMA's recommendations.

We want to ensure we are proportionate in our approach and that any new disclosure requirements are effective, consumer focused and promote competition. With this in mind, the focus of our early work has been on public access barristers and/or for those practising family law.

The second of our consultations will seek views on the policy principles that will inform our revision of thequalification rulesfor new barristers, which will be published next year. In particular, it will ask:

  • to what extent we should prescribe the role of the Inns of Court in the training and qualification of barristers; and
  • what rules and regulations we should require regarding the arrangements and administration of the work-based learning component of training.

The Board and I are open-minded about the best way forward. We recognise the historic and supportive role played by the Inns and by many pupil supervisors in helping prepare barristers for the "real world" of practice and this is why we are seeking views on these important elements of training for the Bar.

We want to build upon what already works well and to deregulate where we feel that our rules are no longer needed. We want to encourage flexibility and innovation and to respond to positive changes which are already happening, not to abolish practices and traditions which have served the public and the profession well and continue to meet our regulatory requirements.

This consultation, which is part of our Future Bar Training programme, will also cover the development of our Authorisation Framework for new routes to the Bar and consider how best to allow for the transition between the current training structure and the future structure. It will also contain draft principles for recognising qualified lawyers who are transferring to the Bar (including solicitors, EU lawyers, and other foreign lawyers).

Please look out for the publication of these consultations. We should be able to give you more details in next month's Regulatory Update. I do hope that you will engage with us on these matters, give us your views and help us make sure that our rules meet your needs, as well as being in the public interest.