BSB’s new approach helps struggling chambers

BSB’s new approach helps struggling chambers

As a part of the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) new targeted and proportionate approach to regulation it has published the findings of its pilot supervision visits to chambers. These visits have helped to bring about real improvements in chambers’ policies, procedures, and controls which, the BSB believes, could aid the spread of good practices, like more transparent and effective complaints processes, across the profession.

The BSB have reported that the chambers visited received the visits positively and staff appeared to appreciate a more constructive relationship with the regulator -working collaboratively to help improve chambers’ management of risk and compliance with regulatory requirements.

The BSB’s Director of Supervision, Oliver Hanmer, said:

“We have been really encouraged by the tangible improvements we have seen in chambers’ risk management, governance, and service delivery. We are delighted with the positive responses from the chambers we have worked with. It’s clear that this approach is helping to foster a more constructive relationship between the BSB and those who we regulate. Fundamentally, these visits are vital in helping the BSB better protect the interests of clients by preventing potential risks snowballing into real problems.”

The BSB visited 13 chambers as part of the pilot – seven having been selected randomly and six selected on a risk basis due to referrals from the BSB’s Professional Conduct Department.

Following the 13 pilot supervision visits, some 120 actions were raised, which were split into one of four categories:

  • for immediate attention,
  • urgent,
  • important, and
  • merits attention

depending on priority. Around half of these actions were defined as important, and about a third were considered to merit attention.

Six of the actions identified warranted an immediate response by the chambers in question. Of these, five related to the financial vulnerability of three chambers that were selected for visits on the basis of risk. The BSB have required these chambers to prepare emergency plans in the event that they were forced to close unexpectedly, so as to minimise the accompanying impact on their clients. The chambers have since been subject to ongoing monitoring by the BSB.

The sixth and final action categorised as “immediate action” related to delays in paying Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund insurance premiums. The chambers was requested to address this immediately.

Among the actions raised from the visits, key themes were:

  • Risk management (eg, whether a chambers had prepared a plan for how it would manage and respond to risks and uncertainty);
  • Viability (eg, whether a chambers had a contingency plan in the event of sudden closure);
  • Complaints (eg, whether a chambers had clear complaints handling and monitoring procedures); and
  • Equality and diversity requirements (eg, whether a chambers had devised an Equality Action Plan).

The BSB intends to roll out more supervision visits as part of the its wider, better targeted approach to supervision.

The full report can be found on the BSB web site.

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