In a guest blog, Julie Brannan, director of education and training at the Solicitors Regulation Authority, explains the rationale for the move from hours-based CPD to ‘continuing competence’
Last week, we announced that we will be introducing a new approach to continuing professional development (CPD). Solicitors will still have to keep up-to-date and firms will need training systems in place to ensure their solicitors are competent – as required by the Handbook.
But how they do this will in future be a matter for them. We will be removing the requirement for solicitors to undertake 16 hours’ CPD a year. This will mean that firms and individuals can do the training they need in the way which suits them best.
Why are we are making this change? The problem with the current CPD scheme is that it is all about hours spent in formal training courses rather than actual learning.
So, if you learn something through researching a point for a case, that doesn’t count. If, on the other hand, you spend three hours in a stuffy hotel room listening to something you forget the moment you step back out into the street, the training will still contribute to your annual requirement.
The current scheme was introduced many years ago, at a time when the Law Society, as it then was, regulated by introducing process requirements which applied to everyone. CPD was a classic case in point. The Law Society wanted to ensure solicitors kept up-to-date, so it introduced the requirement that everyone should do an arbitrary 16 hours’ formal training a year.
The system has played its part in the development of a learning culture in the profession. But times have changed dramatically. The way we regulate has changed, and technology has changed both the way firms practise, and the way people learn. Our approach to continuing competence must reflect this.
The new approach has competence at its heart. Individual solicitors and firms will be in the driving seat. They will need to think about what they should do to ensure that their work is up-to-date and competent. They will be able to choose how best to do this.
Hand-in-hand with the new approach, we will be phasing out the authorisation of CPD providers. There will be more flexibility about how people learn. For example, it will no longer be necessary to learn in hour-long blocks. People who prefer to learn in bite-sized chunks, perhaps over their phone or tablet, on the go, will be able to do so. People who learn through reading and researching for a particular case will be able to have that recognised as part of their learning and development.
Despite this, we recognise that, for some, our new approach may take a little getting used to. Firms and individuals will need to reflect on the quality of their work and use that reflection to drive learning and development, rather than relying on the 16 hours’ requirement.
We recognise that this is a significant shift in culture. So we will be delaying full implementation of the new approach until November 2016 and, in the meantime, we will be publishing a toolkit for practitioners, containing:
- the new competence statement for solicitors, which will explain what all solicitors need to be able to do competently;
- guidance on how to reflect on your work and identify training needs;
- information about the range of ways in which training needs may be addressed;
- suggestions about how to record and reflect on training undertaken;
- information about tools that are available to help with this process; and
- examples of good practice.
We will publish the toolkit in spring 2015. At the same time, because some firms and individuals are keen to move quickly to the new system, those who wish to do so will be able to opt in on a voluntary basis.
Individuals will have to certify at the end of the practice year that they have met their CPD requirements, either (until October 2016) on the basis of their 16 hours or because they have implemented the new approach to continuing competence.
We believe the new approach is the best way to reduce the regulatory burden, increase freedom and flexibility and focus on the effectiveness of education and training.