The Bar Standards Board has published the final report on its chambers monitoring pilot scheme. The Board has committed to developing a quality assurance scheme to monitor compliance by chambers with the Code of Conduct. The pilot scheme tested the proposed approach to chambers monitoring and ran from June until November 2008. It involved a representative sample of 35 sets of chambers and focussed on compliance requirements in respect of chambers complaints handling, pupillage and equality and diversity.
The headlines from the report are:
The development of a self-regulation system which is robust and credible is critical to the profession to protect and maintain its
reputation and also the reputation of the Board as a regulator;
Of those Chambers in the pilot scheme there was only low level evidence of non-compliance and a significant amount of good practice in Chambers was identified. This is encouraging and supports a light touch approach but is no reason to be complacent;
Any scheme needs to carry the confidence of the profession. Encouragingly, the large majority of Chambers in the pilot scheme were receptive to the idea of some monitoring of Chambers by the Board, but engagement with the whole profession on the purpose and motives of the scheme is crucial to ensure wholehearted acceptance;
Chambers must be clear about what is expected of their policies and procedures in order to comply with the Code requirements. This was not always the case for those Chambers in the pilot scheme, particularly in respect of the requirements relating to equality and diversity. Model procedures and policies should therefore be developed to assist Chambers in this regard;
Any efficient monitoring system must be supported by an increasingly sophisticated and robust IT system which draws information from existing databases into a central point so that risk assessment and analysis can be carried out;