New CPD regime 'well received' by solicitors
The removal of the requirement for solicitors to undertake 16 hours a year of continuing professional development has not resulted in a decline in the quality of solicitors’ work, according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Since the new continuing competence system was introduced in 2016, solicitors must now declare the training and development they have undergone during the last year in their annual renewal application.
The SRA recently surveyed 500 law firms and undertook a thematic review of 20 firms to look at how the new approach has been received by firms and solicitors. It said the new regime has been “well received” by law firms, with 39 per cent of respondents saying the changes had improved the competence of solicitors. However, the regulator conceded that “the new approach is still relatively new and as a result it is too early to draw any concrete conclusions as to whether there has been a change in the standard and competence of solicitors”. More than half of firms surveyed reported no change to their levels of learning and development and had not experienced any significant problems with implementing the new system. Most firms reported savings on the associated costs because of a better focus of activity on specific roles and teams. Individual solicitors said the new approach enabled them to better identify their needs.
However, the SRA said a small number of solicitors “are consistently failing to return their continuing competence declaration, or in some cases are making a nil return”. The SRA said it will be writing to them and will consider disciplinary action if there is a failure to comply with the regulatory requirements. SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: Keeping up to date is a fundamental part of how solicitors ensure they are delivering a good quality of service to their clients. It’s good to hear that law firms are saying they are keeping better tabs on their training needs, and that the new approach has given them more room to address skills gaps.” The SRA also committed to providing more support to solicitors to “help them address the challenges”.