The Bar Standards Board has unveiled plans to replace its continuing professional development scheme for barristers and ditch the set number of hours practitioners must complete annually.
A consultation outlines plans to replace the Established Practitioners Programme (EPP) with a scheme that the BSB said would give barristers “the freedom to chart their own learning and development and decide on the type, scope, and volume of CPD they should do as it relates to their areas of practice”. Individuals will still be responsible for compliance.
Barristers will be required to have a continuous, up-to-date and annual record of their CPD activities. They will also have to demonstrate that these activities are relevant to their current or future practice.
The regulator justified the overhaul by saying that the new approach would allow it to “avoid unnecessarily escalating minor failures to comply with CPD requirements and focus more on those barristers it believes represent a real risk to the public by not keeping their training up-to-date”.
The proposals only relate to those barristers on the EPP programme, but not the New Practitioner Programme which applies to those barristers with less than three years’ practising experience. The BSB said the latter needed a more structured approach.
Dr Simon Thornton-Wood, Director of Education and Training for the BSB, said: "We think barristers are best placed to map out and embark on the training most useful to their own career path. CPD should be about barristers enriching their perspectives, challenging and colliding ideas, and acquiring knowledge that will help them provide their clients with the best service possible. It shouldn't be a last minute scramble to attend the next available course - whatever it is - just to clock up a chosen number of hours.
"What we're suggesting in this paper is more autonomy for barristers to identify, pursue, and fulfil their training needs. But it also means more flexibility for us to focus our efforts where they are really needed. Persistent or flagrant breaches will of course be taken very seriously, but we want to move away from using a 'sledgehammer to crack a nut' and inappropriately referring minor CPD offences to enforcement action. Those are our views. Now we want to hear from others on whether they think we've got it right."
Currently barristers on the EPP must complete 12 hours CPD a year. Of these, the BSB must accredit four.
The consultation paper can be viewed here. Responses must be submitted by 2 September 2015.