Are you ready for the new CPD system?
As solicitors prepare to switch to the continuing competence regime, Jennifer Williamson considers whether much will change in practice for the profession
In less than two months there will be a requirement for all solicitors to move
to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) new continuing professional development (CPD) system, if they have not done so already.
The old system, which called for a minimum of 16 hours of CPD a year, gave an enviable certainty to what was required, with a fixed goal to work towards that did not seem too onerous but also not so minimal as to have little impact in developing professional skills.
However, it perhaps encouraged learning in a way that was not most suitable to all individuals and could inevitably lead to a mad rush to gain qualifying CPD activity just before the annual declaration deadline in October. This did
not really encourage a focus
on individual training needs
to meet personal or practice objectives.
Even the SRA described
its CPD regime as ‘tick-box’.
Under the replacement
scheme in place from the start
of November, there is now non-mandatory guidance that makes solicitors responsible for deciding the amount and type
of CPD they should undertake. There is no longer a minimum number of hours set and accredited training is no longer part of the framework.
However, the Law Society
has published a list of activities that solicitors might consider undertaking. These include coaching and mentoring sessions, work shadowing, writing on law, or practice
‘Continuing competence’ is the catchy name that the SRA has given the new system. Compliance requires regular learning and development so that skills and knowledge remain up to date. The guidance issued indicates that this should form part of a process of reflecting
on individual learning needs, planning CPD activities, carrying them out, and recording what has been done in order to make an annual declaration to the SRA.
All makes sense, doesn’t it?
Yes and no.
For most solicitors this will be common sense and no different to the previous process, albeit with a bit more flexibility on the type and focus of the training undertaken. In practice, I suspect that many firms will
still look to record a minimum
of 16 hours of relevant CPD activity as evidence that the new requirements have been met, reasoning that if that was considered the appropriate number of hours before, then why not assume it remains a fair benchmark?
However, self-assessment of any kind is open to abuse. There will inevitably be the risk that some people will confirm their competence with little or no actual CPD undertaken. That is not necessarily a problem in itself if they genuinely remain competent. But how can they show that to be the case if the SRA asks?
The questions for employers are clear: how will they implement the new system
and ensure that their solicitors comply with these new standards? What internal procedures are going to be put in place to help meet the new CPD requirements? Is CPD
going to be considered on an individual basis or are there going to be blanket training options given to all?
It is certainly not yet clear
how, if at all, the professional indemnity market has reacted,
or is going to react, to the new regime. The answer is probably not at all unless there is some evidence that it increases the
risk of claims through reduced professional competence.
Meanwhile, as with many of the SRA’s initiatives, the motives behind this one may be well intentioned and correct, but
it is unclear whether much will change in practice for the profession.