What is the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) new mandatory regime on continuing professional development (CPD) for solicitors? Nicola Jones, co-founder and director of Athena Professional and a learning for performance consultant, takes a look at the new rules and provides guidance on how firms can implement them into their practices.
What prompted the SRA to introduce this new regime on CPD
The prevailing view was that CPD needed to be more flexible and orientated towards the needs of the individual. Central to the whole rationale was the move to the idea of ‘competence to practise’ – a solicitor and his/her employer are now required to make a declaration of competence to practise, which, in effect, confirms that the requirements of the job and the knowledge, skills and attributes of the individual have been actively addressed through an on-going process of learning and reflection.
How much of a change will this require in approach and practice for firms and solicitors?
The introduction of a competence-based regime opens up the continuous learning agenda. Central to this is the idea that a firm can identify its own competencies, as long as they fit with the over-all import of the SRA’s competency statement. Further, not everyone is expected to have the same competencies. This throws up three brilliant business opportunities to:
- assess what competencies are required for each role
- think carefully about who needs to demonstrate which competencies – taking care to think afresh about what roles will really deliver what’s needed
- create a learning culture in which individuals take responsibility for their own learning, thinking actively about what the firm needs and how they can best contribute
The other hugely important change is that learning is no longer a set thing, ie a number of hours – it can be whatever the business needs it to be and that includes recognition of a wide range of learning activities, such as private research or reading, as long as those activities are related to a learning need and evidence of the application of the learning can be provided. Crucially, there is an opportunity for the legal sector to leap frog over 20 years of developing online learning and move straight to using what digital learning has to offer.
How are firms handling the transition to the new regime and its implementation? What methods and practices are they using to comply with the new rules?
- developing effective recording systems
- increased emphasis on effective performance management
Both are important to be able to evidence a cycle of learning, the application of learning and continuing assessment of learning need. However, there is a real risk that the opportunity to use learning as a driver to achieve business goals is lost if the only change is to tighten up pre-existing systems.
The Law Society and SRA are providing support for firms and solicitors to help them comply with the new rules. What are the potential benefits of these forms of support?
What are the possible benefits of the new regime and how can firms best seek to take advantage of them?
What are the possible pitfalls in approach and practice for firms and solicitors in seeking to comply with the new regime?
The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.
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