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SRA ends mandatory CPD hours for UK law firms

Competency-based approach favoured for regulatory compliance 

21 May 2014

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is abandoning its requirement for solicitors to complete 16 hours of continuing professional development (CPD).

Its new outcomes-based approach is intended to focus on competency and to end the current 'tick-box' approach to CPD.

The decision is subject to approval by the Legal Services Board. The new approach will be phased in from spring 2015 and fully introduced by November 2016.

Commented Mark Solon, director of Central Law Training: "At long last the Solicitors Regulation Authority has caught up with the digital age. Solicitors no longer want to sit in hotel rooms for hours just to get points. They can increase their competency through new and flexible ways such as with training on smartphones and iPads, reflecting on what they do and putting that into practice."

He added: "Competency is clearly a different animal to compliance. Competency requires central reflection and thought rather than just signing an attendance register."

The SRA plans to phase in the new training rules to ensure the profession is ready for the 'culture change' following concerns from certain quarters - such as the Law Society and the Legal Services Consumer Panel - that the proposals could lead to the end of all training in some firms.

"Solicitors will need to keep careful records to ensure that they can show and have the proper systems in place for education and training as well as have some thought process in place to decide what they should be learning about and record that accordingly," said Solon.

"Should the SRA come knocking on the door, solicitors will need to be able to prove what they have done."

Proposals to overhaul CPD were published in February in Training for Tomorrow: A new approach to continuing competence. The current CPD regime was described in the paper as having no focus on the quality or appropriateness of the training undertaken by some solicitors.

The SRA's longstanding preferred option has been to provide non-mandatory guidance. Under this option, the current CPD scheme is revoked and solicitors will instead rely on the existing provisions in the SRA Handbook requiring a proper standard of legal practice, training and supervision.

In board papers published on Monday ahead of today's meeting, the SRA confirmed that the committee agreed with this option to provide greater flexibility to the profession.

It said: "With the growing role of non-lawyers within regulated entities, our focus must shift towards the entity to ensure competent services."

Guidance on the new rules will be published around September this year, with the new training regime coming into force from November 2016.

Firms will have the option to adopt the new approach from spring 2015, when a 'competence statement' (indicating what a competent solicitor should look like), together with supporting guidance, are due to be published.

The SRA will cease to accredit CPD courses from November 2014. Until then, the old CPD system still applies so solicitors should continue to comply with the old regime.

In an interview with sister publication Solicitors Journal, the SRA's director of education and training, Julie Brannan, explained why the regulator reached its decision; whether the profession still needs accredited training; what will change and when; and what solicitors and their firms will need to know as this new rules take effect.

Watch the video interview here.

Based on an article first published in sister title Solicitors Journal.

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