From 1 November 2016 solicitors are no longer required to undertake 16 hours of CPD annually. Instead, the SRA's new regime of continuing competence focuses on Principle 5 to 'provide a proper standard of service' and requires every solicitor to:
- reflect on the quality of their Practice by reference to the SRA competence statement; &
- Make an annual declaration that they have considered their training needs and taken measures to maintain their competence
About a third of the profession are already on the new regime (it was introduced voluntarily more than a year ago) using their existing appraisal process to reflect on training needs, but the majority have continued to record their CPD in the traditional way.
Existing process 'tick box', but is new approach any better?
The SRA described the current CPD regime as largely 'tick box' with no real focus on the quality or appropriateness of the professional development undertaken. While this is certainly true for some, the new approach brings new risks. As one reader of the Gazette stated "the saving in firms' CPD budgets will doubtless be welcome, but personally, I welcome the strictures of having to meet my CPD annual target hours, as it forces me to physically make the time to update myself rather than being a round the clock hostage to demands of my desk".
Both the Law Society and the Legal Services Consumer Panel have criticised the plans, flagging concerns that the proposals could lead to the cessation of training in some firms. There is a very real risk that the abolition of the requirement may send the wrong signal to employers, solicitors, and indeed clients.
Guidance on complying with the new regime
The SRA, however, is adamant that this is not a soft option to learning and development. It will be for firms to decide how they provide a proper standard of service and whilst any form of learning and development is valid they will have to justify how they remain competent.
In absence of any clear guidance from the SRA, there remains a lot of uncertainty from firms regarding how best to comply with the new regime. We have produced practical guidance (and some template documents) to assist firms concerned about complying with the new Competence-based regime.
Insurers are concerned that some firms may take advantage of the regulatory change to reduce the amount of training solicitors undertake. It remains to be seen whether they will ask for proof of competency when they are faced with a negligence claim or as a part of the renewal process.
The new Insurance Act 2015 makes it easier for Insurers to claim reimbursement from the firm so we may see increased activity in this area.
Training & Guidance available from Lockton
We understand that providing relevant training is time-consuming and costly for firms. We have a growing library of guidance, and online CPD that Lockton clients can access free of charge.