Get ready for the SRA’s new regime
21st June 2016
As you are probably aware, with effect from October 2016 the SRA is introducing ‘Continuing Competence’ as a new approach to the ongoing development of qualified solicitors in England and Wales.
Continuing Competence introduces a ‘Competence Statement’ to provide clarity on what is required to deliver a proper standard of service and removes the mandatory requirement for solicitors to undertake 16 hours per year of CPD.
It is important to note that the removal of 16 hours CPD is not a ‘soft option’ for learning and development. The new approach emphasises personal ownership for development and enables individuals to reflect on their practice, identify suitable learning and development needs and develop a plan to address those needs (recording and evaluating the outputs accordingly).
There will also be a new requirement for solicitors to make an annual declaration confirming they have reflected on their practice and undertaken training so that their skills and knowledge remain up to date.
What does Continuing Competence consist of?
There are three main component parts to the new regime:
1. The Competence Statement
This defines the competence required from all solicitors and covers the four key elements of the work of a solicitor:
A) Ethics, professionalism and judgement
B) Technical legal practice
C) Working with other people
D) Managing yourself and your own work
2. The Threshold Standard
The competence statement is generic therefore the threshold standard defines the level at which competences should be performed upon qualification.
3. Statement of Legal knowledge
This sets out the knowledge that solicitors are expected to demonstrate upon qualification.
How does this affect me?
There are three key things solicitors need to do under the new regime:
As a solicitor you will need to think seriously about whether the quality of your practice meets your obligation to provide a proper standard of service (and evidence you have done so at least annually). Successful reflection will require you to think about your strengths, development areas, what you can do better, and what you need to do to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. Methods of reflection include:
- Annual appraisals (and any follow-up)
- Reviewing client/customer feedback
- One-to-one meetings with your manager
- Creating and reviewing a personal development plan
- File and matter reviews
- Monitoring legal/regulatory developments
2. Plan and Record
Planning time for learning and development is essential and documenting your plans will make it more likely to happen.
Most appraisal processes contain a development plan of some description. However, if not, the SRA has a template you can use, please click here to view. What is important to remember however is that development plans should be:
- Regularly reviewed
- Kept to hand (so you can easily amend/add, etc)
- Included in your discussions with your manager (one to ones/ appraisals, etc).
Don’t forget if you’re a manager of a team then you should also understand the development plans of your staff so you can support them in their development!
The new regime gives solicitors freedom to engage in any type of training so long as it contributes to their ‘continuing competence’ and enables them to deliver a proper standard of service.
What is critical, though, is that solicitors can evidence they are committed to addressing their development needs and have taken action to do so. Listed below are some examples of methods of learning methods (some will suit some more than others!)
- Training sessions (external, in house, online and via DVDs for example)
- Feedback from colleagues, clients, managers etc.
- Sharing knowledge with colleagues (discussing key topics for example)
- Coaching and mentoring
From October 2016, when you attend any of our internal seminars or conferences here at Ward Hadaway, we will email you following the conference with a certificate of attendance. This will assist you to evidence your attendance and can be kept with your training plan.
To discuss training requirements or for further advice on incorporating Continuing Competence in to your in-house Learning and Development system, please get in touch.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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