Centuries-old traditions for would-be barristers, including mandatory ‘dining sessions’, will continue after the Bar Standards Board (BSB) said it recognises the ‘vital’ role played by the Inns of Court.

The BSB confirmed it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Inns last night, which includes new requirements for them to self-evaluate qualifying sessions for new entrants.

The Inns - of which there are four – are responsible for calling barristers and providing training and nurturing sessions. Their influence had been threatened by the BSB’s proposed training overhaul, but representative body the Bar Council opposed the plans. The Bar Council lauded the Inns’ ‘fundamental role’ in ‘nurturing and developing the shared culture of the bar’.

Subsequently, in a change of heart, the BSB said the Inns should retain their role but that there should be ‘greater BSB regulatory oversight and assurance’ in the process of calling to the bar and administering fit and proper person checks. It has now outlined these proposals in the MoU. 

The BSB said it will agree guidelines with the Inns Conduct Committee for determining whether an individual is a fit and proper person.

Although the Inns will be able to develop their own qualifying sessions the MoU says they will need to submit to the BSB an ‘annual self-evaluation report’. 'If the BSB identifies a risk to the regulatory objectives or to its principles of flexibility, accessibility, affordability and high standards through this assurance process it may seek further information from the Inns, including through undertaking visits to the Inns,’ the MoU said.

The MoU is between the BSB, the Council of the Inns of Court, and each of the four Inns – Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple.