BSB to scrap continuing education for barristers

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.

SRA want independence from TLS and Bar separation from BSB

Paul Philip told MPs that total independence from the Law Society was crucial. “Perception is everything,” he said. “It is all about public perception. And currently the public is confused over who we are. It is difficult to convince them that we are not part of the Law Society.”

Vanessa Davies, director-general of the Bar Standards Board, agreed with Philip that complete separation was necessary – from the Bar Council in her organisation’s case – if public trust and confidence in legal profession regulation were to be maintained.

23,000 and 30,000 people use online provider for divorce.

The research, which focused on unregulated providers for wills, divorce and intellectual property law, found that on average unregulated providers represent 5% of the paid advice given to address a legal problem.

The proportion was highest in family law, where unregulated providers represent between 10%-13% of the paid advice given.

The research found that unregulated providers offer lower prices on average than their regulated competitors, particularly for wills and divorce.

According to the report, solicitors on average charge £722 for an uncontested divorce compared to £36 to £172 from online divorce providers.

Meanwhile it noted that consumers value the fact that wills and estate administration providers typically conduct home visits.

The report also found that 81% of consumers who had used an unregulated provider were satisfied with the customer service, almost the same level as with regulated providers, where 84% of consumers said they were satisfied.

Pitt said: ‘It is however, very important that consumers make informed decisions to use unregulated providers. They will receive less protection than if using a regulated provider and it is of concern if they are accepting this without realising the lack of consumer protection.’

Legal professional bodies said that the LSB report understated the risks posed by unregulated providers.

Chantal-Aimee Dorries QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: ‘It is a matter of concern that between 23,000 and 30,000 people, according to the LSB report, are using unregulated online providers when going through a divorce.

Using unqualified and insufficiently insured providers of advice in family matters, which will often involve children, instead of using the services of properly regulated professional lawyers, carries considerable risk for all concerned. Legal regulators must do more to warn consumers about the risks of using the wrong type of legal service provider – unregulated, not properly qualified or insured.’

Catherine Dixon fighting at Justice Committee for TLS

The Law Society today warned government that now is the ‘wrong time’ for a shakeup of legal services regulation – stressing that the profession will be focusing on supporting its clients through a period of unprecedented change in the wake of last week’s Brexit vote.

Speaking before giving evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee, chief executive Catherine Dixon pledged that Chancery Lane would work with solicitors, clients, the public and government to support a ‘calm transition’ after the UK voted to leave the EU.

She alerted MPs to what she described as ‘the dangers of picking away at the finely balanced legal services sector when the sector, constitution and economy are going through a period of such unprecedented change’.

She also outlined some of the sectoral issues which will need to be addressed in the event that Article 50 is triggered.

These include: maintaining single market access; enabling solicitors to continue to practise across the EU; maintaining financial services passporting arrangements; ensuring the mutual recognition of judgments; maintaining extradition arrangements including the European Arrest Warrant; and maintaining England and Wales as the jurisdiction of choice, and the use of English and Welsh law across the globe.

The prospect of separation of the SRA and Law Society – along with other legal regulators from their representative bodies – was raised by the Treasury last year, with a consultation expected to be published this summer.

Dixon disagreed with her SRA counterpart Paul Philip during the evidence session over which body should ‘own’ professional standards, legal education and entry into the profession, and the awarding of the professional title of solicitor.

Practising fees to be reduced by 10%

Solicitors are in line for a near 10 per cent cut in their practising certificate fees, the profession’s joint governing bodies revealed on Friday.


“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.

Veyo salaries were an average of £74,300

Staff at failed e-conveyancing project paid average £74k

Staff at the Law Society’s failed e-conveyancing business were paid average salaries of nearly £75,000 annually, final account figures for Veyo revealed.

For the year ending October 31, 2015, the ten staff involved with the business were paid a total of £743,000. Ultimately, Veyo went down with losses of more than £11.4 million, most of which was borne by the body that represents solicitors in England and Wales.

The project, which collapsed just six months after launch, has been highly criticised by conveyancing specialist solicitors. Its board of directors included several prominent names from the society’s Chancery Lane headquarters, including the current president, Jonathan Smithers, and the chief executive, Catherine Dixon.

Also driving the project were the former chief executive Des Hudson, who resigned as Veyo chairman four months before the plug was pulled, and Nigel Spencer, another former senior Law Society executive.

Law Society officials were contrite when Veyo sank in December 2015. A spokeswoman told The Times at the time that the organisation was “sorry” for the failure. However, society chiefs did not accept that they were lax in project management and financial controls. “They took steps to reduce operating costs and to ensure that more conveyancing experts were involved in looking at the product’s functionality and usability,” the spokeswoman added.

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