The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today announced a timetable and decision making framework in relation to its decisions on barristers' future involvement in new legal structures.
The BSB has been examining the regulatory implications of the new business structures permitted by the Legal Services Act 2007, which include Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) and Legal Disciplinary Practices (LDPs). Following a second consultation on the Legal Services Act the BSB found a diversity of views expressed in relation to what will potentially be major changes for the profession.
The BSB believes that any changes to the regulatory regime in relation to new business structures must be based on clear evidence that the changes are compatible with the regulatory objectives of the Legal Services Act and demonstrate benefit for consumers. As a result of the diversity of views received, the BSB commissioned Europe Economics to carry out research, modelling the likely outcomes of the proposed reforms on the profession, on the provision of legal services and on the ability of the consumer to obtain affordable access to justice.
The BSB can confirm that the results of the research will have been analysed fully in order to inform the Board in November, when making the following decisions relating to the new legal structures:
1. Whether barristers should be permitted to be managers of LDPs, and if so should they be subject to any restrictions.
2. Whether barristers should be permitted to be shareholders in LDPs.
3. Whether barristers should be permitted to practise both as managers of LDPs and as independent practitioners.
4. Whether barrister only partnerships should be permitted.
5. Whether barrister should be permitted to practise through barrister only companies and LLPs
6. A decision in principle as to whether the BSB should consult on becoming an entity regulator and, if so, in relation to what sort of entities. Consultation would include high level outline of what would be involved and very rough estimates of costs An assessment of Bar to determine probable uptake also needs to be undertaken.
Commenting, BSB Chair, Ruth Deech said: "Any new regime for ABSs and LDPs must be based upon a clear assessment of the way in which the different scenarios for the provision of legal services meet the regulatory objectives. By commissioning the Europe Economics research we will have to hand the evidence needed to underpin effective decision making. Supporting regulatory objectives and guaranteeing quality legal services to the client lie at the heart of the decision making process".