Continuing competence Q&A

Implementation

We've put together answers to questions you might have – and some you might never have thought of – about implementation of our new approach. You can also find out how other people have adopted the new approach.

Q. What do I need to do to implement the new approach?

A. From 1 November 2016, all solicitors will need to:

  • regularly think about the quality of their practice
  • identify and address any identified learning and development needs
  • make an annual declaration to us that they done this.

Read more on how you do this

Q. Can I use our internal appraisal process to implement the new approach?

A. Yes, if your process enables you to:

We know that about 1/3 of people and their employers that have already adopted the new approach by using their existing appraisal process.

Q. Can we use our internal competence framework to implement the new approach?

A. Yes, however, we suggest that you look at our Competence Statement to see whether you need to make any changes to your existing framework. We know that just under 1/3 of people and their employers have adopted the new approach by aligning their existing competence framework with the new approach.

Q. Our current approach to learning and development /performance management meets requirements of the new approach – do I need to do anything to adopt the new approach?

A. No other than to make an annual declaration when required that you (or the solicitors you employ) have reflected on the quality of practice and addressed identified learning needs.

Q. How long will it take to implement the new approach?

A. The amount of time required to implement the new approach will be different for each person or organisation. However, we know that it has taken less than 3 months to implement for over 75% of people that have adopted the new scheme already.

Q. How much will it cost to implement the new approach?

A. The cost of implementing our new approach will be different for each person or organisation. However, we know that for over 60% of people and their employers that have already moved to the new scheme there was no cost involved.

Q. Does the new approach apply to me if I work overseas?

A. Yes; if you hold a practising certificate.

Q. Do I need to tell you that I have adopted the new approach?

A. No.

Q. When will I need to make an annual declaration under the new approach?

A. This depends on when you plan (or have adopted) the new approach.

2017 PCRE: The declaration will be moved so that solicitors are making a declaration relating to the current (rather than previous) practice year. All solicitors will make the new declaration.

Read more about annual declaration

Q. What happens if I do not make the declaration?

A. Under our new approach, we will monitor PCRE forms to identify those solicitors who have not confirmed to us that they have reflected on their practice and addressed identified learning and development needs.

We will use this information, in combination with other information we hold or receive about an individual or regulated entity, to explore concerns that we may have with the competence or standard of service provided by a solicitor. Where we identify a concern, we may decide to engage with an individual or entity.

Q. Where can I find templates to help me implement the new approach?

A. Our online tool kit has example templates of a development plan and record.

Q. Where can I find out more about how people have implemented the new approach?

A. Read how other people have implemented our new approach. You can also read case studies on wider approaches to learning and development.

Q. I am a in house solicitor. How does this approach affect me?

A. All solicitors, irrespective of where they practice, need to adopt our new approach to continuing competence by 1 November 2016. The means that you will need to reflect on the quality of your practice, identify and address your learning and development needs. You will need to make an annual declaration to tell us that you have done this.

Read more information

We have also provided information on our new approach for those organisations that employ in house solicitors.

Q. How long will I need to keep learning and development records for under the new approach?

A. SRA guidance makes clear that solicitors need to keep a record of how they have maintained their competence. It doesn’t specify any particular minimum or maximum period for retaining training records. The fact that we might ask to see these records provides a basis for firms to process the data under the GDPR. But firms will need to reach their own position about data retention in the light of the GDPR, our guidance around continuing competence and their own systems. But it is quite possible we may have concerns and therefore wish to make enquiries about how solicitors have maintained their competence in relation to matters which are older than 6 years.

Q. I practise overseas. My jurisdiction requires a different approach to evidence my continuing professional development. What can I do?

A. Under our new approach you have freedom and flexibility to determine the learning and development to meet the requirements of our new approach to continuing competence. Ultimately, it will be up to your overseas jurisdiction to amend their rules or not to reflect the position in England and Wales. If you practise, you will need to make judgement whether the learning and development you carry out to meet your continuing competence obligations satisfies the requirement of your overseas jurisdiction.

Q. Under your new approach to ensuring ongoing competence, I am required to keep up to date with the entire Knowledge Statement?

A. Our approach is designed to strike a middle ground between the need to spot issues outside a solicitor's practice area and the recognition that the broad knowledge which solicitors have on qualification will inevitably fade where it is not used. We do not expect practising solicitors to retain active, knowledge of all these knowledge areas, or to undertake professional development activities in relation to legal topics which are unlikely ever to have a bearing on their practice area. What we do expect, in line with a broadly based qualification, is that solicitors should be able to recognise possible problems even when these are outside their immediate area of practice.

Q. If I am away from practice - for example on maternity leave - once the new approach to continuing competence is introduced what should I do?

A. There is no need to do training while you are on leave. However, you should reflect on your practice when you return to work, identify any training needs and take appropriate steps to address them. For example, you may need to update yourself on the law, or brush up your skills.