24 August 2019

Call for evidence to help improve BSB Handbook

We are calling for evidence to help us scope a planned review of the BSB Handbook.

This follows our announcement within our Strategic Plan for 2019-22 that we would be reviewing the Handbook to make sure that it remains fit for purpose, relevant and accessible given that it has been in force in its current form for several years.

We are asking you to share your experience of using the Handbook with us. We are seeking views on matters such as:

  • what the review should, and should not, cover - including matters of substance and/or structure;
  • what difficulties do people have engaging with the current Handbook; and
  • what positive aspects of the Handbook should we retain.

We plan to consider the evidence we receive before deciding the scope of our review in early 2020, and then undertaking the review itself after that.

We do not envisage the review leading to any fundamental changes to the core ethical and professional duties expected of all barristers. It is, however, a chance for you to tell us what you think of the current Handbook and to help us identify where it might be possible to simplify it.

This call for evidence runs until 28 October and anyone wishing to contribute, or to request further information, should please email  ProfessionalStandards@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

The current (4th) edition of the Handbook contains most of our regulations and guidance in one place and is approximately 250 pages long.  Approximately 90 pages concern barristers' ethical duties and permitted scope of practice, 80 pages concern enforcement, 35 pages cover qualification and authorisation, and a similar number are used for the introduction and definitions.

With regard to your ethical duties, the Core Duties in the Handbook define the core elements of professional conduct, and compliance with them is mandatory. The rules are intended to supplement the Core Duties where a Core Duty alone is considered insufficient to address the perceived risk. (The outcomes, while not mandatory, put the rules into context and help you to determine how they should act if a specific situation is not covered by the rules.)  Our general approach has been to express all requirements that are genuinely mandatory as rules, and provide further information, or examples of behaviour that would breach rules, in guidance.