This year solicitors face the first major shake-up of professional education in 30 years and many are wondering what it will mean for them.
The SRA is replacing the current hours-based continuing education requirements with a system under which solicitors must prove continuing competence. Solicitors have been required to complete continuing professional development (CPD) training since 1985. While the minimum annual requirement of 16 hours is easy to understand, it does not effectively measure an individual’s professional development or ability to practise.
The SRA has acknowledged that the hours-based scheme risked being simply a tick-box exercise. “The current ‘one size fits all’ approach has not been substantively updated for over 25 years,” it said. “It is out of step with current thinking on professional CPD and does not reflect the current environment in which solicitors now work.”
Julie Brannan, the SRA’s Director of Education and Training, has explained that the new competence based system was designed to provide a more flexible and modern approach to training. To demonstrate competence, solicitors and their employers will need to show that they have reflected on what education and training they need, recording the thinking processes, the actual learning and some self-assessment.
Here at Central Law Training, we believe that the new regime heralds a more exciting and technologically advanced era for solicitors. Solicitors can create education and training programmes that are unique to their needs. Training can be done on mobiles and iPads in the lunch-hour or while commuting, possibly in bite-size chunks. Provided the solicitor properly logs what they have done, that will contribute to fulfilling the competence requirements.
The new requirements will be universally adopted on 1 November, but solicitors and their employers need to act now to ensure that they are ready to hit the ground running in the autumn. They will need to understand and adopt the concept of reflective practice. They must also plan appropriate learning and development activity and have a system in place to record it so that competence can be established.
We are looking forward to working with our current and new members in the transition to a competence based regime. We have developed a half-day workshop which explains the new regime and demonstrates how you can implement a learning and development programme that is not only compliant but also creates a competitive advantage (www.clt.co.uk/competence). We will also be rolling out a digital platform to support solicitors in achieving and proving compliance in the new training era, as well as developing a toolkit to help you understand what concepts like reflective learning mean in practice. We will keep you posted via emails and updates on our website.