The bar regulator has indicated that it is taking a more cautious approach than the solicitors' equivalent in seeking full independence from the barrister representative body. Responding this week to a Legal Services Board (LSB) consultation, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) said concerns about its relationship with the Bar Council centre on effectiveness rather than independence, and concedes that legislation to create separate legal entities is not on the horizon.

This stance is markedly different to that of the SRA, which continues to lobby for 'a complete separation' of governance, operations and resources, including a separate balance sheet and financial reporting mechanism'

Both bodies were responding to a consultation by the LSB on the internal governance rules (IGR) applying to bodies set up under the Legal Services Act. The BSB said it thought current IGRs ‘are generally working adequately’ when it comes to independence of regulatory policymaking and decision-taking.

While it has identified issues surrounding its ‘effectiveness as a regulator’ and would prefer independence, it conceded: ‘Without the power of the LSB to impose our preferred position of separate legal entities, we do not think more extensive changes are necessarily needed.’

Under current arrangements the BSB and Bar Council are independently run operating divisions of the same legal entity. The same is true for the Law Society and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The BSB said that, although legislative changes are not in itsz short to medium-term plans, it considers that further clarity by a redrafting of the IGR would allow the regulatory and representative bodies to be more ’effective and accountable’.

Operating as a single legal entity creates a perceived problem of ‘influence and control’, it added. ‘This is most obviously and simply exemplified in the fact that the salaries and emoluments of everyone on the regulatory body are paid by the same body that represents the interests of the profession being regulated. The governance arrangements currently in place risk giving the representative “side” an automatic upper hand in settling these.’

The BSB added that the joint arrangements, ‘which in the present case also extend as far as shared premises and occupation of adjacent floors’, add to a perception that the regulatory body is not independent.