New Training Regulations for Solicitors: Walker Morris help for in-house lawyersPrint publication
In-house lawyers are reminded that from October 2017, all qualified solicitors when applying for their annual practising certificate will need to declare that they have reflected on their practice and undertaken regular learning and development so that their skills and knowledge remain up to date. Gwendoline Davies and Judith Pike explain the SRA’s competency-based, self-regulation regime (which replaced Continuing Professional Development or ‘CPD’ points), and how Walker Morris can help in-house lawyers to remain competent and compliant.
New training regulations for solicitors – SRA Competency Approach
From 1 April 2015, the SRA’s traditional requirement that solicitors must obtain at least 16 hours’ CPD points each year was replaced by the new SRA Competency Approach. Now, to achieve SRA competency (which must be declared on an annual basis before a practising certificate can be awarded) solicitors must reflect on their practice and undertake regular learning and development so that their skills and knowledge remain up to date.
The new, outcomes-focused, approach is less rigid than the traditional 16 hours’ training requirement and the SRA no longer mandates the manner in which competency is achieved and recorded. That means that ‘on the job’ learning, including reading, research, attending training and learning-through-doing can all be taken into account as contributing to a solicitor’s professional development. The new approach reflects the many and diverse ways in which we train and expand our legal knowledge and competencies. The key, however, is for individual solicitors to record and demonstrate competency themselves.
The Competence Statement
The SRA’s Competence Statement  sets out a comprehensive list of competencies that must be attained by all solicitors, under the following headings:
- Ethics, professionalism and judgement;
- Technical legal practice;
- Working with other people; and
- Managing yourself and your own work.
Meeting these competencies will, according to the SRA, ensure that you are providing a proper standard of service in accordance with Principle 5 of the SRA Principles.
The Statement does not, however, provide any real guidance as to what you need to do on a very practical level in order to comply. This is where Walker Morris can help.
SRA Toolkit and Walker Morris In-House Lawyer Support
The SRA’s website offers a Toolkit which confirms that solicitors should reflect on the quality of their practice by reference to the Competence Statement and must identify learning and development needs. Thereafter solicitors are required to plan and address those needs, and to record and evaluate their learning and development activities so that, if/when asked to do so, they can demonstrate to the SRA the steps they have taken to ensure competence. Finally, solicitors must make an annual declaration that they have completed each of these steps.
So what do you need to do?
Take some time to think about your practice. Are there any aspects of your working life on which you feel you could benefit from further training, greater practical experience or a deeper academic understanding? Are there any legal issues which have crossed your desk, either regularly or irregularly, which you referred to external counsel, but with which you might like to deal yourself next time? Do you have any appraisal or other business objectives which training or on-the-job learning could help you to achieve? Capture your identified learning and development needs in a Development Record and move on to step 2…
Record how you plan to address your identified learning and development needs in a Development Plan. Review and update your Development Plan regularly to see how your learning and development is progressing. To do that, you will need to follow step 3…
Learning and development takes many forms for solicitors. One of the key aspects of the new approach to be welcomed is that learning in any form can be taken into account. So, this could be the more obvious traditional training courses (whether delivered in-house, by external speakers or via webinars or eLearning), as well as on-the-job training, mentoring, coaching, preparing for and delivering training yourself to others, reading, research, discussion, attending meetings, and so on.
Walker Morris can help you with this stage of your competency regime in a variety of ways. In-house lawyers can check out our dedicated In-House Lawyer web pages and other Client Resources at any time for advice and support on a variety of commercial, professional and procedural issues. We also regularly publish Business Insights on the latest legal and practical issues of interest to our clients. Spending time reading and reviewing all of these resources amounts to genuine learning and professional development, all of which counts towards your competency requirements.
Walker Morris also regularly hosts and delivers face-to-face training, conferences and events (either here at our offices, externally or in-house at our clients’ premises) on a variety of topics. If there are ever any particular issues or areas on which you would like to receive training, please just give us a call. Apart from our advertised schedule , we are always pleased to offer tailored training to our clients on request.
That just takes you to step 4…
…All you need to do is evidence this learning, which includes evaluating whether the activity addressed your identified learning and development need. This can be captured in the Development Record.
…And step 5: from October 2017 all qualified solicitors will need to make the following declaration on applying for their practising certificate: “I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs”. The declaration should be made via your MySRA form on the SRA website.
If you have any queries or would like any assistance arising from the SRA’s new Competency Approach, or in relation to any training requirements or other issue, please do not hesitate to contact Gwendoline Davies or Judith Pike.