Posted by Barbara Anderson, business development director of Legal Futures Associate Kaplan Altior
The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) high-profile move away from the annual minimum 16 hour CPD requirement has been well documented and most in the profession will by now be aware that the change will be phased in from this spring and fully implemented by 1 November 2016.
But does this really mean the end of (continuing) professional development training for solicitors?
Well, of course, it doesn’t. The demise of the current ‘hours’ system will simply herald a new approach to ensuring that solicitors remain competent throughout their working lives. Flowing from this, each individual solicitor and legal entity will be required to make an annual declaration that they have considered their CPD needs and taken appropriate measures to ensure continuing competence.
These are our top reasons why ongoing professional development training should still be a priority for the profession:
Staying compliant with the SRA Handbook and Code of Conduct
Principle 5 of the SRA Handbook sets out the mandatory principle that solicitors and entities must “provide a proper standard of service to their clients”. The note to this principle states: “You should, eg, provide a proper standard of client care and of work. This would include exercising competence, skills and diligence, and taking into account the individual needs and circumstances of each client.”
Outcomes 1.4 and 1.5 of the Code of Conduct require that you have the resources, skills and procedures to carry our your clients’ instructions, and that the service you provide to clients is competent etc.
So, to be compliant, you must be competent. But what is competent? The SRA is due to publish its competence statement (designed to indicate what a competent solicitor should look like), with supporting guidance this spring.
This is set to include ways to reflect on your practice and identify training needs; the range of ways in which training needs may be addressed; how to record and reflect on training undertaken; tools that are available to assist with this process; and examples of good practice.
And there is that word ‘training’ again, proving in our view that ongoing competence is inextricably linked to continuing relevant and quality training.
Developing your people
Quite apart from the regulatory considerations, there is a wealth of evidence to show that organisations that invest in the personal and professional development of their people are more likely to retain their talent, thus avoiding the problem of ‘churn’ and associated repeated recruitment and training costs. Investment in training and development is also key to your ability to attract the ‘right’ sort of people; those who embrace the ethos of personal development and are keen to stay at the top of their game.
Consider your existing clients
A wise man once said that retaining existing business involves just 20% of the effort of capturing new business. So consider your existing clients’ expectations. What level of competence do they expect and how will you demonstrate to them that you are taking the competence of your people seriously and doing all that is necessary to maintain it? Continue to keep a full training record, be proud of it and don’t be shy about sharing it with your clients.
Winning new business and staying ahead of the competition
What do prospective clients look for in a solicitor? What questions might they ask of you? Whether you’re looking to win the business of ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ or that of a multi-national, they will be keen to ensure that your people are up-to-date in their area of practice, have well-honed skills and are competent to deliver an excellent standard of service.
Consider your own competency framework, ensure it links to the SRA competence statement, undertake a training needs analysis and engage with a reliable and specialist legal skills training provider to help you help your people remain competent.
What does your professional indemnity insurer have to say about this?
Check your policy and speak to your insurer. What will it expect of you in terms of training to maintain competence? Maintain the highest level of competence through considered and quality training to keep your premiums down and avoid having to make a claim.