Regulator to scrap continuing education for barristers
Barristers will no longer have to complete a mandatory continuing professional education, if proposals from the profession’s regulator go ahead, it was announced yesterday.
The Bar Standards Board launched a consultation process that would see barristers fall in line with recent reforms to the solicitors’ professional development regime.
The move could more or less destroy what was a thriving business in legal profession update courses because, if it gets the green light, solicitors and barristers would in the future be allowed to self-certify that they are abreast of recent professional developments.
A board statement said that the proposed future regime would mean that barristers would be “free to plan their own continuing professional development activities”. As part of that liberalised programme, barristers will not be subject to any compulsory activities or to a minimum number of hours. And, said the board, barristers “will no longer need to apply for an extension of time or a waiver from their CPD requirements”.
The BSB’s director of supervision, Oliver Hanmer, announced a series of consultation meetings on the proposals around the country that will run until the beginning of September.
Two years ago, the Solicitors Regulation Authority radically reformed its CPD rules, effectively dropping all mandatory requirements.
“We have reduced the cost of our work very significantly since 2014 and we are committed to further reduction,” said Paul Philip, chief executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. “This underpins our wider reform programme, reducing bureaucracy and costs and helping to address the affordability and accessibility of legal services for the public.”
The setting of the practising certificate fee is wrapped up in the highly political relationship between the authority and the Law Society. The latter technically is the front line regulator but it is obliged by legislation to delegate all practical responsibility for regulation to the SRA.
It is understood that senior figures at the regulator are becoming increasingly frustrated for having to set a fee that also takes into account funding for the society’s representation and lobbying work.
The proposed 9 per cent cut to the next fee will go to a three-week consultation. A source at the regulator acknowledged that it would be extremely unlikely that any practising solicitor would object to the cut – however, plenty might suggest that the reduction should be larger.