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BSB explains how it assures competence at the Bar

Following its decision last year not to implement the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA), the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published more detail about how it assures the competence of barristers.

The approach reflects the BSB’s move in the last few years to become a more risk- and evidence-based regulator that takes better targeted action to maintain standards of practice at the Bar. This
means that more focused regulation can be introduced where concerns about professional competence have been identified – for example, the recently introduced competence and registration requirements in relation to Youth Court advocacy.

As well as specific targeted regulation, the BSB’s approach to assuring standards includes a range of additional measures that have already been implemented. These include:

  • the regulator’s Future Bar Training reforms that include a clearly defined set of knowledge, skills and attributes expected of all newly qualified barristers on their first day of practice, as specified in the Professional Statement for Barristers;
  • existing regulatory controls stemming from a requirement in the BSB Handbook that barristers should not undertake work unless competent to do so.

The paper published today also explains how the BSB uses external indicators of the profession’s competence to inform its regulatory approach. These include existing measures of barristers’
competence such as the processes for reviewing the quality of barristers to join specialist panels like the Treasury Panel or for appointment as a QC.

If there are areas of the Bar’s work that need further regulatory initiatives in the future, the regulator will take appropriate and proportionate action to address such risks.

The approach explains why the BSB has decided not to implement QASA and why it has recently applied to the Legal Services Board to have the Scheme’s rules removed from its Handbook.

Speaking about the new approach to manging quality, BSB Director of Regulatory Assurance, Oliver Hanmer, said:

“Providing assurance to the public about the standard of representation they canexpect from the barristers whom we authorise is one of our most important functions.

“In the years since QASA was developed and approved, the BSB has fundamentally transformed the way in which it regulates the Bar. Standards of practice at the Bar are generally very high and the controls that we have put in place, such as our much more robust Continuing Professional Development scheme for established barristers,and the supervisory regime in place throughout the
profession, mean that we are confident that a formal quality assurance scheme should not be necessary. The approach published today reflects our belief that the profession should take responsibility for maintaining standards of practice supported by a proportionate regulatory framework. If they do, it means that we can focus our attention where it is most needed.”

More detail about the BSB’s approach to assure competence is available here.

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: