An online poll of 900 solicitors by the Law Society has revealed that 15% failed to do 16 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) last year – the minimum required.
The poll, carried out earlier this year, also showed that 17% of solicitors were already using the hours-free ‘continuing competence’ system introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on 1 April this year. The existing regime will be phased out by 1 November 2016.
While 31% of solicitors said they did not know when they would be moving to the new scheme, 19% said they would be switching in six months, 15% in the next 12 months and 18% on the final day next year.
Despite the change, a large majority of solicitors (74%) predicted that they would be doing the same amount of CPD hours as before.
Almost half of the solicitors who responded to the poll, 45%, said they undertook 17-25 hours of CPD last year, with 19% doing exactly 16 hours – 2% said they did not know how much CPD they did.
In terms of knowledge of the new scheme, 44% described themselves as “unconfident”, with only 23% confident in their understanding.
More than half of the respondents’ firms (57%) had not made provisions to help with completing the annual declaration of competence solicitors will be required to make on the practising certificate applications.
Firms wanting to move to the new system straight away are not required to inform the SRA, so no precise figures are available.
The SRA said in April this year that it believed over 200 law firms of all sizes  had opted into the new regime.
Richard Williams, policy associate at the SRA, said then that a quarter of 950 firms which registered for a webinar held by the regulator a few days after the introduction of the new regime said they would be adopting it.
“A broad spectrum of firms have told us they are doing it, from top 100 firms all the way down to sole practices. There may well be cost savings, but I don’t think that is the main driver.”