The Bar Standards Board will encounter ‘significant challenges’ in emulating the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s move to outcomes-focused regulation, a report by the super-regulator has concluded.
The Legal Services Board today published its response to the bar regulator’s self-assessment of its performance and outlook.
The BSB wants to reach a satisfactory level for all aspects of regulation by 2016 and move towards OFR.
But that process will require ‘significant cultural changes’ in the organisation, said the super-regulator, which believes the bar regulator has painted an ‘overly optimistic’ picture of the progress it has made. Many of the improvements are also reliant on a successful IT upgrade, which could come with additional risks.
The super-regulator also identified a lack of evidence about barristers’ clients and a ‘reactive nature’ at the BSB.
LSB chair David Edmonds said the self-assessment was among the most challenging he had seen. ‘It is a work programme characterised by a welcome frankness and a high, but necessary, level of ambition,’ said Edmonds.
‘We are pleased that the BSB is seizing the opportunities offered by the Legal Services Act: It intends to free barristers to offer their services, and new services, to consumers in new ways.
‘However, with change comes risk and challenge. The BSB must do more to embed the regulatory standards and an outcomes-focused regulatory approach into its day-to-day operations.’
The bar regulator has ambitions to expand the reserved legal activities those whom it regulates are allowed to provide, as well as to regulate alternative business structures.
The LSB said it will expect it to demonstrate ‘significant progress’ when it applies to be an approved regulator of ABSs. The bar regulator agreed in April 2011 that it would seek to regulate advocacy-focused ABSs, legal disciplinary practices and barrister-only entities, but it has yet to make a formal application.
BSB chair, Baroness Ruth Deech said: ‘We have been very frank with the LSB about the challenges we face and I am pleased their report welcomes our honest and constructive approach.
‘The legal services landscape is evolving rapidly and we aim to ensure barristers can work more flexibly to take advantage of a liberalised market and bring benefits to their clients.
‘Our recently published strategic plan sets out how we will make progress towards becoming a more modern and efficient regulator.’