The answer is entity regulation. But what is the question?

The answer is entity regulation. But what is the question?

HamletThe Bar, like the rest of the legal services market, is coming to terms with the difficult challenges that we have come to treat as normal in the modern post-financial crisis era.  As a referral profession it has historically focused on providing services to solicitors, an approach that has kept it busy but left it dangerously isolated from its end consumers and their changing buying behaviours. Consequently, awareness of the capability and value offered by the Bar is lower than it ought to be among current consumers of legal services, both organisational and individual. Whether or not this is widely recognised at the Bar is unclear, but there is an obvious appetite to broaden its appeal and find different and better ways to deliver its services and communicate its propositions to the market.

Earlier this year the Bar’s regulator, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) sought to facilitate this by announcing the introduction of entity regulation, effectively opening up the possibility of barristers working together under an incorporated entity, which can also include other legal professionals.

The BSB summarised its rationale as follows: “We believe that becoming a regulator of entities will help new advocacy focussed business models emerge and flourish, which in turn will increase client choice. Barristers will be better placed to come up with new and innovative ways of providing legal services.”  Importantly, the BSB also states that its “focus is on the regulation of advocacy and related litigation services and expert legal advice”.

It is quite right that the Bar looks to innovate in order to remain competitive and relevant, and for the BSB to seek to facilitate this.  But innovation is far easier to talk about than to put into meaningful effect.  And innovation is commercially effective only if it results in genuine benefits for the consumer either directly in the way services are delivered or indirectly by bringing about structural or operational improvements that enable this.

In this context it is disappointing but perhaps unsurprising that the initial take up of entity regulation come

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