Letter of Welcome from Sir Andrew Burns KCMG, Chair of the BSB
I warmly encourage you to consider making an application to become a lay member of the Bar Standards Board. To help you as you contemplate whether this role may suit you, I’d like to give you a little insight into the Board, its work and what it is like being a part of the Board.
I joined the Bar Standards Board myself at the beginning of 2015. As a former diplomat, with no legal background, I found I had a lot to learn about how the legal system works, how legal regulation works and how the Bar Standards Board itself works. That in itself has been enjoyable and interesting. As is so often the case when one is learning something new, things don’t remain static. The last two years have seen a lot of change and progress and I do not see the pace slackening. This is very definitely a role for those who enjoy an intellectual challenge across a wide variety of topics.
With both independent members and practising barristers on the Board, you would be joining a group of highly capable and articulate people. We have a wide range of views expressed on all of the issues we consider. The interaction between so many able people with very different backgrounds and types of expertise is one of the most satisfying aspects of what we do. We all learn from each other and by doing so, I believe, we produce well-reasoned decisions on all aspects of the regulation of barristers of England and Wales. Acting with integrity and respect is a central tenet, especially as we debate what can sometimes be difficult topics. Decisions are not always easy to reach and we engage in robust deliberations in order properly to test the issues before us. Everyone has an opportunity to contribute and I am always keen to ensure that all perspectives are aired before we make decisions. I expect all Board members to participate fully in this way.
We are supported by a talented and dedicated Executive team. Board members interact with our staff on a regular basis on all manner of issues. I think we enjoy a good rapport with our individual staff members while also holding the Executive properly to account. We are in the process of making some significant governance changes, which aim to keep a better balance between the Board and the Executive and streamline arrangements for policy making which the BSB inherited from the Bar Council over ten years ago.
In terms of the work before us, we need to maintain the confidence of a quizzical, sometimes sceptical and even hostile profession while keeping a very clear focus on the regulatory objectives set by Parliament, which include the consumer interest as well as ensuring access to justice and the rule of law. We are seeking to increase our understanding of consumer concerns and to build better and wider stakeholder engagement into everything we do. We are currently considering far-reaching changes to all aspects of training for the Bar and while we still need to understand the Bar very well and the challenges many barristers face in their practices; the public interest focus of the Board means we must also attend carefully to the impact on consumers.
While the Board is funded primarily by the profession, and we are not a public sector organisation, we need to make sure too that we subject our operations to proper scrutiny. People with commercial or private sector skills can help us make sure that the Board sets its policies properly and has robust systems in place to monitor what we are doing.
If you are successful in your application, you will join at an intriguing time in the Board’s development. It may be a cliché, but you will genuinely help shape the future. The importance of the Bar and its operation to the rule of law and democracy in this country may not be appreciated by all but it is something we bear in mind at all times. The energy with which all Board members, and our Executive team, approach the issues before us is often inspirational. The chance to make a difference is both motivating and stimulating to me – and I think the other members of the Board too.
If this also appeals to you, please do make an application. We look forward to our new members joining and I can assure a warm welcome for whomever is successful.
Sir Andrew Burns KCMG
Chair, Bar Standards Board