Bar Standards Board to widen regulatory scope to include barrister businesses

The Bar Standards Board (BSB), the regulatory body for barristers in England and Wales, has received approval from the Legal Services Board (LSB) to regulate barrister businesses. Barristers and other advocacy-focused lawyers will now be able to pool resources and share the risks of investing in their own business, without having to change regulators. There are currently a handful of barrister-focus alternative business structures licensed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Initially, the BSB expects to authorise mainly single-person “entities”, such as barristers wishing to incorporate their practice and form single-person companies. The BSB originally predicted that there would be some 200 of them registering in the first year of the new regime. But, as a result of the LSB approval, it now predicts by the end of 2015 it will oversee twice as many barrister entities. Overall, the BSB expects to regulate between 900 and 1,400 single-person entities within three years.

The BSB will start accepting applications from 5 January 2015, but can only start authorising entities from April, when temporary changes to the Civil Procedure Rules come into force that allow appeals against its decisions to be made to the High Court.

The BSB’s entity regulation policy statement emphasises that the first entities it is seeking to regulate are likely to undertake activities similar to those traditionally undertaken by the Bar.

The BSB said that by regulating entities that focus on advocacy, litigation and specialist legal advice, it will “significantly help broaden the public’s choice as to how they access legal services”. BSB Chair Baroness Deech said: “Our research shows there is clear interest on the part of the Bar in setting up or becoming part of an entity. As the regulator of barristers we are committed to helping the Bar develop new and innovative ways of providing legal services, because we believe this will benefit consumers and be in the public interest.”