Since introducing ‘Continuing Competence’ requirements in 2016, forty percent of law firms report that they have increased the amount of learning and development support offered to their solicitors.
The SRA says the introduction of revised approach to maintaining and developing skills among solicitors positive. Half of firms (52 percent) say that levels of learning and development have remained unchanged, with just 9 percent reporting a reduction in the focus given to this area. All solicitors are required to make a declaration on what training and development they have undertaken over the past 12 months as part of their annual renewal application. To help better understand the impact of the new approach we also conducted an online survey of 500 firms and solicitors and visited 20 firms. The most popular internal training methods were reading, research and discussion (75 percent), informal and on the job training (69 percent), and peer-to-peer learning (58 percent). Training courses on specific topics and areas of law (70 percent), e-learning and webinars (59 percent), conferences and events (58%) were the main external methods. Other key feedback on the continuing competence approach, included the new regime was implemented without significant problem and is seen as more flexible and able to adapt to individual needs and specialisms. Most firms reported a reduction in the cost of learning and development by better focussing activity on specific roles and teams. However, some solicitors claim it is difficult to make time to reflect, identify and address their learning and development needs.
Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said “Keeping up to date is a fundamental part of how solicitors ensure they are delivering a good quality of service to their clients. It’s good to hear that law firms are saying they keeping better tabs on their training needs, and that the new approach has given them more room to address skills gaps.” However, he added “We did find that a small number of solicitors are consistently failing to return their continuing competence declaration, or in some cases are making a nil return. It will be writing to these individuals asking them to explain why this is the case. If there is a failure to comply with regulatory requirements, the SRA will consider disciplinary action.” The report states that only half of the firms spoken to said they made a regular allowance of time for solicitors to maintain competence, “preferring to arrange training on an ad hoc basis.” The SRA concluded, “the new approach is still relatively new and as a result it is too early to any draw concrete conclusions as to whether there has been a change in the standard and competence of solicitors. An SRA resources toolkit can be found here.