Continuing competence

In 2014, the Solicitors Regulation Authority announced fundamental changes to the regime for continuing professional development (CPD) which affect all solicitors practising in England and Wales.

In place of the rule that solicitors undertake a specified number of hours of CPD, which has been a requirement for more than 25 years, the SRA is adopting a new approach to ensure that solicitors remain competent.

This requires solicitors in England and Wales to prove their continuing competence by reference to a series of skills, contained in a competence statement, available at http://www.sra.org.uk/competence.

The new regulations require solicitors to regularly reflect on the quality of their practice by reference to the competence statement, identifying any learning and development needs and addressing them. Solicitors must be able to demonstrate that they have carried out an assessment of their competencies in each of the four main areas:

  • Ethics, professionalism and judgement
  • Technical legal practice
  • Working with other people
  • Managing yourself and your own work

Solicitors will need to sign an annual declaration that they have considered their training needs and taken steps to maintain their competence. The aim is that this will encourage practitioners to develop a reflective approach to learning and development as a core part of their day-to-day practice rather than rushing to complete CPD by a deadline.

The SRA believes that the new regime will give more control of learning and development to firms, enabling them to invest where they feel they need to, rather than having to comply with prescriptive rules. It envisages that firms will have flexibility to undertake more innovative forms of learning and development.

The change is being phased in and firms will have the option of continuing with the familiar hours-based regime until 31 October 2016, although they can choose to adopt the new regime at any time before then. The SRA has put together an online toolkit which suggests what good practice looks like under the new regime. This can be found at: www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/cpd/tool-kit/continuing-competence-toolkit.page.

Registered Gateway users can also access a free online toolkit by logging into their account.

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