As Head of Governance, it often falls to me to explain the composition and structure of the Bar Council to those who are not members of staff.  It is fair to say that we are a little unusual in terms of set-up so, bear with me while I try to spell it out!

Relationship with the Bar Standards Board

The General Council of the Bar (Bar Council) is the approved regulator but, in accordance with the Legal Services Act 2007, we delegate the regulatory functions, in their entirety, to the independent Bar Standards Board (BSB).  This means that the Bar Council is in the unique position of being the overall entity (for example, the employer of all staff) while simultaneously being entirely separate from its regulatory wing.

The principles of regulatory independence are enshrined in the Legal Services Board’s Internal Governance Rules (IGR).  To make sure that we adhere to the IGR, we have a Protocol for Regulatory Independence and Provision of Assurance in place.  This ensures that any representations that the Bar Council may wish to make to the BSB are documented and sent to the BSB under the Protocol.  The BSB are not obliged to take on board our suggestions, but they will always listen and are often pleased to receive the input. 

In further protection of this, no member of the Bar Council or its committees may be a member of the BSB Board or its committees and vice versa.  We do, however, share three joint committees:

  1. The Chairs’ Committee, comprising Officers of the Bar Council and BSB, the CEO and the Director General of the BSB – this non-decision-making committee, which meets every other month, keeps under review the relationship of the Bar Council and BSB.
  2. The Finance Committee – chaired by an independent, lay Chair, this committee has oversight of the finances and advises accordingly.
  3. The Audit Committee – also chaired by an independent, lay Chair, this committee keeps under review all matters relating to internal and external audit and scrutinises the Bar Council and BSB risk registers.

What about the staff structure?

While the Bar Council is separate from the BSB, what most people might not realise is that we share our ‘Resources Group’.  The Resources Group comprises the Human Resources, Information Services, Records, Project Management, Finance and Facilities functions.  The Resources Group allows us (the Bar Council and the BSB) to maintain regulatory independence while working within the most cost-effective business model.

So, there are effectively three components of the overall entity that is the General Council of the Bar: the BSB; the Resources Group; and, what we call the Representation, Policy and Services (RPS) directorate (in essence, the representative body).  I won’t go into detail about the work of each as that is for them to write about but the structure is as follows.

RPS consists of the following departments:

  1. The Executive Office – lead by the Chair of the Bar and the CEO, this department also comprises the Adviser to the Chair, the Head of Governance, the Executive Officer, Public Affairs Officer, Committees Governance Officer and the Executive Support Assistant.
  2. The Communications and Marketing Team – headed up by the Director of External Relations and Communication, this team is split between the two functions of Communications and Marketing.  The Communications Manager (Policy and Campaigns) and Communications Officer work to support the Communications function while the Head of Marketing and Marketing Executive carry out the marketing work.
  3. The Policy Team – the Director of Policy oversees six teams: the International Team; the Regulatory Affairs, Law Reform and Ethics Team; the Legal Practice and Remuneration Team; the Equality and Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility Team; the Brussels Office in Europe (matters of European law); and, the Research Team.  Each Team has a Head and the majority have Policy Analysts or, in the case of the Research Team, a Research Analyst.  Three Policy Assistants provide cross-team support.
  4. The Services Team – lead by the Director of Services, this Team has two principal areas: Training and Events and Services.  The Training and Events Team is overseen by a Training and Events Manager with a Senior Training and Events Coordinator and two Training and Events Coordinators to support them.  The Services function has a Services Manager and a Services Development Manager as well as a Bar Services Coordinator and a Bar Services Assistant.

A lot of work is carried out by relatively few staff! 

I am always willing to talk anyone through the internal workings of the Bar Council.  Should you be interested, please do get in touch.

Natalie Zara is Head of Governance at the Bar Council