CPD and competence

CPD and competence

By Tim Pearce, SRA Policy Executive, 28 March 2014

At our road shows, we've been asking delegates to write a blog on our proposals in the Continuing Competence consultation . Elinor Billing, New Law Solicitors and Chair of the Cardiff Junior Lawyers' Division, explains why she supports Option 1.

Elinor Billing, New Law Solicitors, Chair of Cardiff JLD

Elinor Billing, New Law Solicitors
Chair of Cardiff JLD

Following attending an SRA Roadshow on 12 March about the consultation Training for Tomorrow: A new approach to Continuing Competence, I support the SRA's preferred Option 1 for new CPD requirements.

Entities providing legal services are required to self regulate and self report to the SRA; the introduction of Option 1 would mean that solicitors are self regulating and self reporting; Option 1 is therefore in keeping with the SRA's outcome focused approach to regulation.

If Option 1 is implemented solicitors will need to reflect on their own quality of practice, identify areas for development and ensure appropriate development activity is undertaken. Solicitors develop their competence everyday, continually researching and constantly learning; under Option 1 this relevant work and learning can therefore count as a solicitors' continuing development and will fit comfortably with a solicitor's day to day work.

Some colleagues at the Roadshow were concerned that the change would dilute the competence of solicitors and diminish public trust in the profession. However, all solicitors must abide by the Code of Conduct: Principles 5 and 6 respectively address these issues. Therefore, changing the requirements of CPD will not affect competency or public trust. Instead, there will be more of a focus on the Principles and protecting the profession's fundamental standards.

Gaining 16 hours CPD a year does not draw the line between a competent and incompetent solicitor. Solicitors are professionals and actively seek their own professional development. Without doing so, solicitors would fall behind in the area in which they practice and could potentially breach other obligations contained in the Code of Conduct. Also, solicitors will be judged ultimately by an employer, and will face sanctions internally should they not deliver competently to clients.

Option 1 is a proportionate proposal to ensure the continuing competence of solicitors. Competence and CPD do not equal each other. The changes proposed in Option 1 lift the prescription and unnecessary burden of gaining 16 hours CPD a year, and recognise solicitors' personal and professional responsibility for their own development.

Please note that these are personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SRA.