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Professional development review questions readiness for ABS day

3 May 2011

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has launched an in-depth review of post-qualification training, the first since the compulsory professional development scheme was introduced in 1985.

“We need to ensure that the whole standards of the profession are robust, ensure competence and public confidence,” said SRA head of training Di Lawson.

Lawson told Solicitors Journal the advent of outcomes-focused regulation posed a new challenge for firms and for the regulator, requiring a much greater understanding of ethical rules.

She said many solicitors were already working much more as managers supervising teams of non-solicitors, such as legal executive and paralegals, and that the arrival of ABS’s would lead to solicitors working more closely with other professionals as part of multi-disciplinary teams.

“We want to look at what it means in terms of risk management and at our ability to assess risk in law firms,” she said.

Ethics would be a particular focus for the review, Lawson continued. “Can ethics be delivered in different ways than through training?

“We would like to explore alternatives such as mentorship, feedback, or case studies. Legal knowledge base is easy to refresh, but there are other aspects around ethics and management skills that present risks we need to look at.”

Peter Todd, a partner at Hodges Jones and Allen who is in charge of training, said the current system was “a bit lax”, and that a review of post-qualification skills was a good idea. “No professional would like to have to retake qualifications, but there should be a continuous validation process for all lawyers, including judges,” he said.

The review, headed by Professor Andrew Boon of Westminster University, is expected to start with the new CPD year in November 2011. Professor Boon’s report is scheduled to be on the regulator’s desk in April 2012.

The review’s main objective is to create a scheme that “properly helps to maintain and improve solicitors’ competence, performance and ethical conduct”, according to the regulator, and which is “proportionate, targeted and based upon the principles of outcomes-focused regulation”.

The research is in addition to the wider Legal Services Education and Training Review (known as ‘Review 2020’) which the SRA, Bar Standards Board (BSB) and ILEX Professional Services are commissioning this year.

The SRA is planning separately a similar review of management training. It will address the suitability of the Management Course Stage 1, which all solicitors are required to complete within the first three years of qualification as part of the current CPD scheme.

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