Bar Standards Board to regulate entities

At its most recent Board meeting, the regulator of the Bar in England and Wales took the decision to regulate advocacy-focused Alternative Business Structures, Legal Disciplinary Practices and Barrister Only Entities, collectively referred to as ‘entities’. It will not extend its remit to regulate Multi-Disciplinary Practices.

The decision is the culmination of a high-level consultation entitled “Regulating Entities,” which sought to explore the developments brought about by the Legal Services Act 2007.

The Board decided in principle that:
  • BSB regulated entities and self-employed barristers will be permitted to apply to conduct litigation should they so wish
  • BSB regulated entities will be permitted to provide the same services as those currently provided by the self-employed Bar
  • All owners of BSB regulated entities must also be managers; there will be a 25% limit on non-lawyer owners /managers of Alternative Business Structures
  • A majority of the owners/managers of ABSs regulated by the BSB must be barristers or other advocates with higher rights of audience
  • BSB regulated entities and self-employed barristers will not be permitted to hold client money, and
  • All managers of BSB regulated entities (barristers, solicitors and non-lawyers) will be subject to the same conduct rules.
The Board also decided that:
  • Barristers will be permitted to practise as managers or employees of Alternative Business Structures regulated by other Approved Regulators when Part V of the Legal Services Act 2007 is in force.
  • Barristers will be permitted to have ownership interests in Alternative Business Structures subject to the development of rules and guidance on managing any resulting conflicts of interest.

Commenting on the decisions, the Chair of the Bar Standards Board, Baroness Ruth Deech, said:

“Nearly 75% of respondents to our consultation agreed that BSB regulation of entities would be in the public interest. I am pleased that the Board has listened to the profession and other respondents and taken this bold step forward, promoting choice and increasing access to justice. We intend to target our regulation on advocacy focused entities, taking a risk- based and proportionate approach. We hope that this decision will allow barristers the freedom to react to changes in the legal market and permit them to devise new ways of working in order to remain competitive and better serve the public.

Although a great deal of research has already been undertaken in order to enable us to reach this decision, much hard work is still to come. We will now develop a detailed regulatory framework, draft rules and options, which will include a further cost analysis. We intend to issue this for widespread consultation this autumn.”
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