Continuing Competence - What you need to know

  • by Jack J Collins, Editor of

CPD Hours Scrapped

In November 2016, the SRA scrapped the minimum 16 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) per year, which it had implemented for many years, and replaced it with a system known as ‘continuing competence.’

This was brought in on the back of a report which the SRA produced in February 2014, called Training for Tomorrow: A new approach to continuing competence, which criticised the CPD hours as simply a ‘tick-box’ regime which had no focus on quality or relevance of the development undertaken.

In its place, the SRA suggested that lawyers needed to stop with such an approach and instead self-reflect on their own practice, identifying learning and development needs as and when they arose.

And on the back of that, the regulator suggested that these gaps in knowledge should then be self-addressed in order to make sure that skills and knowledge were up to date and fit for purpose.

They have also provided a toolkit which provides the resources and information that any aspiring or practicing lawyer needs to make sure that their skills were up to date and to hone their minds on an academic whetstone.

Is it working?

Some people have pointed out that without the structure of CPD hours, many law firms have begun their own processes to ensure they are not caught out, with more processes than were there before, which is the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen.

Continuing competence is supposed to allow each solicitor to reflect upon their own work and identify any individual gaps they might need filling, rather than meaning that everyone should be doing a set period of reflecting.

Melissa Harding, writing for the Law Gazette, stated that: “How and when a solicitor reflects, and how and when they identify and address learning and development needs, is not prescribed. In fact, the SRA has gone to great lengths to stress that it is for the individual solicitor to determine.”

As such, continuing competence is supposed to make life easier, not harder, for solicitors, and they should be able to make their own, informed decisions, about what needs doing for their own legal knowledge to grow and develop.

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