The Bar Standards Board has decided to take a new approach towards the quality assurance of barristers following a review. The BSB will not therefore implement the earlier scheme, the Quality
Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).
Over the past few years the BSB has been reviewing its approach to assuring the quality of all aspects of barristers’ services, including advocacy. The regulator is committed to being risk and evidence based in its approach and has introduced a number of regulatory initiatives that are designed to support standards of practice at the Bar. These initiatives also encourage barristers to take greater responsibility for their own learning and development by removing prescriptive regulation and creating flexibility as to how competence should be maintained. In doing so, the BSB has created a supportive regulatory framework that is designed to help the profession to manage its own professionalism and standards in the quality of practice but with clear arrangements in place to address instances of poor practice or non-compliance.
The Board has therefore decided that the QASA scheme would not be consistent with this new approach. The BSB remains committed to assuring the quality of barristers, but will now do so by building upon the strong foundation of regulation that has been implemented over the last three years. The regulator will also pursue a programme of research, evaluation and engagement so that it can continue to plan and develop regulation to provide quality assurance.
Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the BSB, Sir Andrew Burns, said
“Regulators must be responsive to changes in regulatory practice and be prepared to amend their approach if aims can be achieved in different and better ways. QASA was developed over a number of years and was approved four years ago. In the intervening period, the BSB has substantially changed its approach to regulation both as it has developed as a regulator but also in response to changes in the provision of legal services. The Board now believes that QASA no longer fits within the BSB’s regulatory approach. We have therefore decided, after much careful deliberation, that it should not be implemented. This in no way should be seen as a reduction in the BSB’s commitment to ensure that the public has access to good quality barristers. It is rather a reflection of our willingness to adapt and change our regulatory approach so as best to deliver our strategic objectives.”
About the Bar Standards Board
Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t
QASA was a joint scheme developed by the BSB in collaboration with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and CILEx Regulation that was approved in 2013 by the Legal Services Board. The scheme has been on hold since then, firstly whilst unsuccessful judicial review proceedings concluded and more recently pending a decision by the Ministry of Justice on the introduction of a publicly funded defence panel scheme. The BSB’s decision not to implement QASA has been taken after discussion with the other regulators and it will continue to work with them to assure quality in the public interest.