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SRA Continuing Competence

As of 1st November 2016 the SRA’s requirement for solicitors to complete 16 CPD hours each year has been replaced with the new Continuing Competence scheme. The old system had come to be seen by the regulator as a tick-box exercise and as a result was phased out in during 2016.

The new scheme applies to anyone with a practising certificate as well as Registered European Lawyers (RELs) regardless of where in the world they are based, whether they practise English Law or if they are retired.

What is the new scheme?

Solicitors will now be required to make an annual declaration on their PCREs stating "I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs." They will also now need to keep a record specifying the training they have undertaken and how many hours have been completed for a period of at least 6 years. The SRA should be able to audit these training records at any time without advance notice.

Can Lexcel help?

Lexcel accredited practices will already be in a good position to implement the new scheme. The People Management section of the standard already contains requirements for a practice to provide appropriate training to all personnel, to have a procedure to evaluate training and to have a learning and development plan for all personnel. Read more about our services and the benefits of Lexcel here.

How does this fit in with the SRA handbook?

Principle 5 of the handbook says that a solicitor must “provide a proper standard of service to your clients” and outcome 7.6 is that practices must “train individuals working in the firm to maintain a level of competence appropriate to their work and level of responsibility”. As part of the new scheme the SRA has produced a Competence Statement made up of three parts: a statement of solicitor competence, the threshold standard and a statement of legal knowledge. These help to define what is required of solicitors under the new regime.

How does it work in practice?

There is no set way to comply with the new scheme and practices will differ in how they approach Continuing Competence. There are no defined activities or timings and there are no longer any regulated training providers. Some firms will need to overhaul their training and development arrangements whilst others may just need to tweak their existing policies and procedures. The SRA has produced a useful toolkit and the Law Society has provided some FAQs and guidance. It has been recognised that in many firms a change of culture may be necessary in order to meet the new requirements. A good starting point is the “CPD cycle” - reflect, plan, act, evaluate.

The benefits

With the previous CPD scheme 30 years old it could be argued that a new approach was long overdue. One of the reasons for the change was that the old system of CPD hours imposed a regulatory burden on firms without necessarily providing any identifiable regulatory benefits. Solicitors will now have a broader choice of activities to count towards their ongoing learning and development and more control over the process, which will in theory, mean that the new system serves both solicitors and their clients better.

For a free no obligation quote for Lexcel, please click here.

Still unsure? 

Centre for Assessment are holding workshops in both London and Manchester which will explore what it all means in practical terms and how firms and their solicitors can ensure that they have arrangements in place to meet the SRA’s requirements. 

This 1-day course will cover:

  • The background to CPD in the Legal Profession
  • The new SRA Continuing Competence system                           
  • Identifying training and development needs
  • Exploring competencies and the SRA Framework

For more information or to book online, click here