Bar Standards Board remains firm on EDI involvement after Bar Council’s lead request

Bar Standards Board remains firm on EDI involvement after Bar Council’s lead request

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has responded to the Bar Council by committing itself to improving equality and diversity at the Bar, despite calls for the regulatory body to refrain from involvement in the matter.

Director General of the BSB, Mark Neale, has explained that even if the regulatory body wanted to step aside, they would not be able to do so, due to their commitment to the Regulatory Objectives set out in the Legal Services Act of 2007.

These objectives clearly state that the BSB must be active in "encouraging an independent, strong, diverse, and effective legal profession." According to Mr. Neale, this leaves the regulator with no flexibility on the issue of equality and diversity.

In a recent blog post, he said, "These legal obligations mean that the regulator and the profession will necessarily both take a close interest in the diversity of the Bar. There is no avoiding that duplication at least."

Mr Neale's response comes after the chair of the Bar Council, Sam Townend KC, urged the BSB to let it lead work on improving EDI in the profession.

According to Legal Futures, Mr Townsend suggested that the BSB had enough to deal with in relation to its own performance and that using sanctions to improve EDI could be counter-productive.

For the BSB to take action on issues, there must be challenges or obstacles to equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) that need to be addressed before the BSB can intervene.

Mr. Neale believes these conditions have been fulfilled, indicating that despite progress in recent years, challenges to EDI at the Bar still exist. These challenges include struggles for students from minoritised backgrounds, career progression inequality, and continued reports of bullying and harassment.

He also noted that regulating the profession can help address the problem by influencing the culture itself. He continued, "Change will only come about if the profession buys into it. But to buy into change, the profession must confront and debate the challenges and identify solutions. That is why we shall shortly consult on a new core duty on all barristers to actively promote equality. Avoidance of discrimination is important, but not enough."

You might also like

Bar Standards Board publishes reports highlighting diversity challenges in pupillage recruitment
read more
Bar Standards Board publishes reports highlighting diversity challenges in pupillage recruitment More

Briefed & Bridging the Bar: Breaking Barriers Together
read more
Briefed & Bridging the Bar: Breaking Barriers Together More

We’re proud to announce the launch of a new partnership with Bridging the Bar (BTB), a non-profit charity that aims to support...

Ethnic minority students less likely to secure legal opportunity and sponsorship, report finds
read more
Ethnic minority students less likely to secure legal opportunity and sponsorship, report finds More