The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced the first research into continuing professional development (CPD) in the legal profession for a quarter of a century.
As first reported  by Legal Futures in February, it has appointed Professor Andrew Boon of Westminster University – who has been heavily involved in work on introducing ethics into the legal education curriculum – to conduct the research.
This research will be carried out ahead of any findings from the education and training review being conducted by the SRA, Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Services.
It comes as the Legal Services Board is also focusing  on whether more is needed to ensure competence among lawyers post-qualification in an era of greater specialisation.
Professor Boon will examine different options for regulatory requirements relating to CPD, as well as how to demonstrate compliance, using the subject of ethics as a specific example. The scope of the project will also include an examination of the difference between conduct and ethics.
Alongside this research, the SRA is planning a similar exercise into management training. All solicitors are required to complete the management course stage 1 within first three years of qualification as part of the current CPD scheme.
The main objective of the SRA’s CPD review will be to create a new scheme that:
properly helps to maintain and improve solicitors’ competence, performance and ethical conduct;
is proportionate, targeted and based upon the principles of outcome-focused regulation;
actively helps solicitors to progress their careers and remain competent; and
is properly monitored and enforced.
Di Lawson, the SRA’s head of training, said: “The current compulsory scheme was introduced in 1985 and only minor amendments have been made since that time. Its main benefit has always been its flexibility, with only 25% needing to be met by taking part in accredited courses. Other than the mandatory management course that solicitors attend within the first three years following admission, and specific requirements for higher court advocates, we do not currently specify how solicitors should meet their annual 16 hour CPD requirement, how we assess the relevance of the CPD undertaken or even ask solicitors to do so themselves.”
A number of firms and solicitors will be taking part in the research from the beginning of the 2011/2012 CPD year on 1 November. The SRA is inviting any interested parties to get in touch. E-mail email@example.com  or telephone 0870 606 2555.