News release

SRA Board announces new approach to ensure solicitors remain competent

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Board has today (Wednesday 21 May) announced a new approach to ensure solicitors remain competent throughout their working lives while removing the necessity for them to complete a compulsory 16 hours' training per year.

It will also mean that training providers no longer need to be authorised by the SRA.

The decision is subject to approval by the Legal Services Board. The new approach will be phased in from Spring 2015 and fully introduced by November 2016.

The move follows a consultation issued in February this year proposing a new approach to continuing competence and giving three options* for change from the current system.

The SRA opted for option 1 because it

  • focuses on the effectiveness of training;
  • gives individuals—and firms—more flexibility and choice in the training they feel is appropriate;
  • reduces the burden of regulation.

However the SRA recognised that many respondents to the consultation were concerned that option 1 could result in some firms failing to offer appropriate CPD. To reflect this concern the SRA Board decided to delay the implementation of the proposals until November 2016 with a transition period beginning in February 2015 to ensure that appropriate advice and guidance could be provided to get the correct culture of training and focus on competence across all firms. In addition a declaration to be added into the individual and firm practising certificate renewal will require each individual and firm to confirm that they have considered their CPD needs.

Solicitors and firms wishing to adopt the new approach early on will be able to do so from Spring 2015 when a Competence Statement (indicating what a competent solicitor should look like), and supporting guidance, are due to be published.

Julie Brannan, the SRA's Director of Education and Training, said: "The SRA is, and will continue to be, focused on the importance of lawyers ensuring that they remain able to give competent advice to those consumers that cannot check for themselves. This is a much better approach to continuing competence. It means firms and individuals can do the training they need, in the way which suits them best.

"We realise that the change will mean a significant culture shift for individuals and firms. We will address this by a gradual approach to implementation, as well as by publishing supporting guidance for solicitors, including the new Solicitors' Competence Statement, in Spring 2015, and by requiring an annual declaration to confirm that firms have considered their CPD needs."

Note to editors

* The three options in the consultation were:

  • Option 1 – to revoke the current CPD scheme and rely instead on existing provisions in the Handbook requiring a proper standard of legal practice and of training and supervision.
  • Option 2 – to replace the current CPD scheme with a new mandatory requirement where solicitors have a development plan to identify and record their training needs but without a specified number of compulsory hours.
  • Option 3 – to retain the current requirement to do a minimum number of CPD hours but require the training to relate to current or anticipated legal practice and recognising a wider range of development activity.