Regulation & Government

BSB to crack down on practices not complying with transparency rules

By the summer of 2020, more than one in five chambers, and over one in three sole practitioners had not complied with the minimum fee transparency requirements

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has announced it will take measures to ensure full compliance with Bar transparency rules.

While most barristers’ practices have reportedly complied with the rules, BSB’s report shows that compliance testing in 2020 and 2021 has revealed that there is still a “significant minority” who were not fully compliant with the rules.

According to the board, those who are falling short must now become compliant or be subject to enforcement action.

The BSB “will continue to regularly check compliance with the rules and will provide support and guidance” to chambers, entities and sole practitioners. 

The spot check and follow-up supervision work conducted by BSB suggests that one in four across all organisations checked, and nearly one in three chambers were classed as not compliant with the full transparency rules as of October 2020.

While a number of organisations “sought to implement the rules” after they were introduced in 2019, BSB’s evidence suggests that many had not fully engaged with or understood what was required of them until prompted to do so by either the spot check or the regulatory return.

By the summer of 2020, more than one in five chambers, and over one in three sole practitioners had not complied with the minimum fee transparency requirements.

Evidence from the regulatory return suggests that the majority of organisations did not face any particular challenges implementing the rules. However, some chambers, sole practitioners and entities found compliance with the rules challenging, with providing information on indicative fees the most commonly cited reason for this. 

Ewen Macleod, BSB director of Strategy and Policy, said: “Despite the health emergency and its impact on the Bar, we recognise those in the profession who have made every effort to comply with the new transparency rules. 

“Whilst the majority of practices are complying – and many are already seeing the benefits of doing so – a significant minority remain non-compliant. This is unacceptable – the profession has had ample time to comply with these rules, which are designed to improve the information available to the public.”

He added: “It is therefore right that our approach to non-compliance changes and we will take enforcement action where necessary to ensure compliance.”

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