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LSB approves SRA’s CPD changes

Effective supervision will be 'essential', says Richard Moriarty

11 February 2015

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Effective supervision will be 'essential', says Richard Moriarty

By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

The Legal Services Board has approved in full the Solicitors Regulation Authority's application to change the continuing professional development (CPD) regime for UK law firms.

The changes will come into full effect on 1 November 2016. Firms and solicitors will have the option to opt-in from 1 April 2015.

The LSB's chief executive, Richard Moriarty, has noted that effective implementation and supervision will be key to fully realising the intended benefits.

"The effectiveness of the approach in delivery competent services will depend on the capability of the SRA's monitoring and supervision framework," he said in the decision notice.

"It is therefore essential the SRA is able to know how well the changes are working in practice and to address any emerging issues both at a macro level and at the level of individual solicitors and firms."

The SRA has said it will monitor and review implementation in several ways, including a mid-point review during the opt-in period and a post-implementation evaluation.

In addition, the SRA intends to "assess implementation to identify competence based risks and whether they are a result of a decrease or absence of learning and development activity resulting from the changes," according to the decision notice.

A Managing Partner survey found that 78 per cent of solicitors do not believe the switch to the new CPD regime will result in any significant improvement to learning and development.

Concerns were also raised by respondents as to whether the changes to CPD are an effective use of solicitors' mandatory practising fees, which fund the SRA.

Moriarty said communication will be key to minimising the cost impact of the CPD changes.

"While outcomes focussed measures generally help to reduce unnecessary burdens for business, it is important that these changes are supported by clear and effective communication to minimise any indirect costs that might arise for the regulated community from any uncertainty and confusion."

Under the new CPD regime, solicitors will no longer be required to undertake a minimum of 16 hours' CPD and will instead need to demonstrate that they are taking steps to maintain their continuing competence.

At a recent Managing Partner conference, concerns were raised as to whether the new approach to CPD is feasible.

"The SRA's new continuing competence regime sounds like nirvana," said Annette Fritze-Shanks, head of risk at Allen & Overy.

"We need a reality check of what solicitors are capable of and have time to do."

Concurred Mark Solon, managing director of Wilmington Group's legal division: "Fee earners want to earn fees; compliance is not number one on their list of activities. Most solicitors don't have a clue about reflection."

Greater clarity is needed on how solicitors should demonstrate that they are meeting the SRA's requirements for continuing competence.

"Ongoing training and development throughout a solicitor's career are crucial to the provision of high-quality legal services," commented Julia Thackray, programme director for family law at Central Law Training.

"Relaxing the restrictions of the hours-based system opens up opportunities for more flexible approaches to learning, but solicitors need clarity over the standards expected and support in continuing to undertake training and development work."




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