Regulation & Government

BSB to take ‘tougher stance’ with transparency compliance

The rules were designed to improve the information available to the public before they hire a barrister, and help them make informed decisions about barristers’ services

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has announced it is set to move to the next phase of ensuring that all barristers’ practices comply with the Bar transparency rules, adding that it will take a “tougher stance” against those who don’t comply. 

The BSB said it will continue to regularly check compliance with the rules and provide guidance and support to practices when it comes to adhering to them.

It added that most barristers’ practices are now complying with the rules, but warned that those who are “falling short” must now become compliant or face enforcement action.

The rules were designed to improve the information available to the public before they hire a barrister, and help them make informed decisions about barristers’ services. 

They require all self-employed barristers, chambers and BSB-regulated entities to publish specified information about their services, including which types of legal service they provide, their most commonly used pricing models, and details of their clients’ rights of redress. 

This latest announcement follows a new report on the impact of the new rules on the profession. This found that while most barristers’ practices have complied with the rules, compliance testing in 2020 and 2021 has revealed that there is still a “significant minority” who were not fully compliant. 

According to the BSB, it has been informed what steps it needs to take to become fully compliant and are being monitored by the BSB’s Supervision Team. 

Since the rules were introduced in 2019, the BSB said it has taken a “guiding and supportive approach” to help practices comply, but the latest announcement “signals a switch to a tougher stance”, with enforcement action being taken in cases where practices continue to fail to meet transparency requirements.

BSB director of Strategy and Policy, Ewen Macleod, 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. 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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