With just over six months until the continuing competence CPD regime becomes compulsory for all solicitors, it’s time to get ready for the new regime.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to talk to Julie Brannan, Director of Education & Training at the Solicitors Regulation Authority, about the response the SRA has had to the regime change. You can watch a short video of the interview below.

The new approach introduces a Statement of Solicitor Competence, which outlines four key areas of competence and the behaviours and capabilities that back these up. The SRA has clarified that solicitors are not necessarily expected to know everything within the competence statement, just the parts that are relevant to their role and that enable them to deliver a proper standard of service. Expectations of a senior rainmaker will be different to those of a recently qualified lawyer, for example.

The SRA recently conducted a survey which showed that nearly half of respondents had already transferred to the new regime, the majority with no extra expense and within three months start to finish. Our conversations with solicitors and law firms suggest that it’s generally the larger law firms which have already transitioned the new regime – and for many it’s business as usual. They already had a competency framework embedded into appraisals, and they already had systems for recording and reflecting on development activities.

For smaller firms, which may not have financial or staff resource to devote to understanding the new regime and implementing processes to ensure compliance, the transition may be a little more involved. The SRA is at pains to emphasise that a common-sense approach is required and that there are plenty of free resources available on its website (see https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/cpd/tool-kit/continuing-competence-toolkit.page). This includes templates for a development plan and a development record, which can be adopted or adapted for use within a firm or in-house team.

Under the new regime, recording and reflecting on development are key. If the SRA has concerns that a solicitor or firm is not delivering the proper standard of service, it will expect to see evidence that appropriate steps have been taken to ensure competence. Recording activities and planning to meet development needs will be key parts of that evidence. The approach/template is left open to the individual or firm to determine for itself, but evidence is essential.

CLT has developed an interactive online tool, the Competence Gateway, to help solicitors manage, monitor and record their learning and development under the new regime. You can explore the Gateway at http://competence.clt.co.uk, and CLT members can register to use it for free.

 Gateway users will also be able to view an extended edit of the interview in which Julie answers some of the questions we have been fielding from CLT members, particularly during Keith Harper’s continuing competence roadshows around the country (see www.clt.co.uk/competence).