Continuing Competence: confused.com?
In November 2016, the SRA introduced a new regime to address the continued development of Solicitors to replace the old Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme. As we approach the close of the first year, there is still confusion over how the scheme works and how to be sure to be compliant. Emma Bratby offers an update and clarity for practitioners.
Continuing Competence follows on from the publication in March 2015 of a competence statement that focuses on Principle 5 of the SRA Handbook:
“You must provide a proper standard of service to your clients.”
The Competency Statement is made up of three parts:
- Competency Statement
- Threshold Standard: Developed to set out the level at which the competencies should be performed upon qualification as a Solicitor.
- Statement of Legal Knowledge: This is the level of knowledge that solicitors are required to demonstrate at the point of qualification. It is the basis of the curriculum for trainee solicitors, making up part of the skills section for the Solicitors Qualification Exam. Requires entry level knowledge for all solicitors as part of the SQE. To meet the Competency standard as part of the new regime, solicitors must continue to maintain their knowledge at the appropriate level, focusing on the appropriate specialism to their role.
Under the new SRA scheme, it is no longer required to reach a prescribed number of hours’ training. Instead, the training should be undertaken to address a learning and development requirement to achieve (or even surpass) an appropriate level of competence for the role and extent of responsibility in the firm.
Therefore this can mean different training for different individuals and firms; for those focused on a fast paced, constantly changing specialist area, more training will need to be undertaken to achieve the level of competence required to provide the proper level of service, compared to less contentious areas of law where legislative change is infrequent. Similarly, the SRA acknowledges that the extent to which learning and development is undertaken may change depending on the nature of work.
So the question remains: how do you as a firm ensure that you are adhering to the new regime?
Firstly, take a moment to take stock of what you are currently doing with regards to the learning and development needs of your fee earners, as well as for the firm as a whole. It is likely that what you have been doing pre-November 2016 will go some way towards adhering to the new Continuing Competency framework.
Then, identify if there are any areas where training may be required (this could be through feedback from a client, (be it a survey response or a complaint), appraisals or 1-2-1’s, file reviews…) and address appropriately. By ‘appropriately’, we mean that training and learning can be achieved in a variety of ways and must therefore be specific and relevant to the individual situation. For example, it may be addressed formally through an external training provider, or perhaps in-house training, or informally through discussions with senior or more experienced colleagues, through coaching and mentoring, or even inter-office emails (i.e. case law updates). The SRA website has an excellent list of the ways in which training needs can be identified.
Finally, it is important to continue to record the training undertaken and to review how effective it was in resolving a training need. By doing this, the individual and the firm are evidencing their approach to ensuring compliance to Principle 5 of the Handbook.
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