Following its decision last year not to implement the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA), the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published more detail about how it assures the competence of barristers.
The approach reflects the BSB’s move in the last few years to become a more risk- and evidence-based regulator that takes better targeted action to maintain standards of practice at the Bar. This means that more focused regulation can be introduced where concerns about professional competence have been identified – for example, the recently introduced competence and registration requirements in relation to Youth Court advocacy.
As well as specific targeted regulation, the BSB’s approach to assuring standards includes a range of additional measures that have already been implemented. These include:
- the regulator’s Future Bar Training reforms that include a clearly defined set of knowledge, skills and attributes expected of all newly qualified barristers on their first day of practice, as specified in the Professional Statement for Barristers;
- the introduction in 2017 of the new Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme for experienced barristers which, aligned with robust monitoring by the regulator, places greater responsibility on individual barristers to reflect upon their learning and development, set learning objectives and review them annually; and
- existing regulatory controls stemming from a requirement in the BSB Handbook that barristers should not undertake work unless competent to do so.
The paper published today also explains how the BSB uses external indicators of the profession’s competence to inform its regulatory approach. These include existing measures of barristers’ competence such as the processes for reviewing the quality of barristers to join specialist panels like the Treasury Panel or for appointment as a QC.