The debate, which took place in front of an invited audience in Inner Temple Hall on 2 April, was entitled “Quality at what cost?” It might also have been called “embracing change”.
Sir David, who was the panel chairman, gave credit to the Bar for bringing his scheme into being before the Legal Services Act 2007. However, he stressed that the independence of the regulator needs to be demonstrated.
The discussion was lively. Derek Wood QC, who chaired the working party on the BVC, said that many students did not meet the exacting standards of temperament and talent. Patricia Robertson QC looked to individual responsibility as the key to ensuring quality. “Change is with us,” she warned; barristers will seek employment with LDPs and be regulated other than by the BSB.
There was a difference of opinion on how best to define good regulation. Chris Graham (retiring lay member of the BSB and Information Commissioner designate) thought the key was “finger on the pulse regulation”. He pointed warningly to the coat of arms of Lord Halsbury, who had been willing to “die in the last ditch” in opposition to the Parliament Act 1911. He said he was happy for the BSB to be judged by the fruits of its labour. David Edmunds, Chair of the LSB, thought on the other hand that “proportionate regulation” was the right phrase. He reminded everyone that the Legal Services Act was about “opportunity”, not “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
There was also a warning from Sam Stein, a new Silk, who sombrely reminded the gathering that what is happening in publicly funded work is not consistent with access to justice.
The discussion was opened and closed by Baroness Deech, Chair of the BSB, who knows about the “reasonable man”: born in Clapham, she spent her early childhood taking the local omnibus.