Solicitors: stay competent to practise!

Solicitors must soon attest, in respect of the practice year to 31 October 2017: “I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.” Are you in a position to do so?

Review the following précis of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) continuing competence requirements and make sure you have complied. If you feel that you have not yet complied, we can help you do so, simply and efficiently, with our CPD 2017 service.

The new approach

You no longer need to count CPD hours. Instead you should now reflect on the quality of your practice and identify any learning and development needs. You can then address these needs to make sure your knowledge and skills are up to date and that you are competent to practice.

The SRA continuing competence toolkit provides useful information and resources to help you adopt this new approach to continuing competence. It is also helpful for firms or organisations that employ solicitors.

The new approach requires you, in summary, to:

  • Reflect on the quality of your practice to identify your learning and development needs.
  • Plan and address your learning and development needs.
  • Record and evaluate your learning activity.
  • Make an annual declaration to confirm you have completed the above.

Your learning and development needs

Reflection involves thinking about your practice to identify learning and development needs. It is important to devote an appropriate time for reflection.

The SRA Competence Statement defines what you must be able to do to deliver a proper standard of service and is an important tool in helping maintain ongoing competence. Use this statement to think about your practice and to identify areas where further learning and development may be required.

Capture identified learning and development needs in your development plan.

Your plan

Planning involves producing a plan! This does not need to be a complex document but should capture:

  • what you plan to do by way of addressing your learning and development needs over the coming x months, and
  • why you plan to do it (ie how important is the activity in meeting your identified learning and development needs.

For example one of your needs might be to:

“Keep up to date with the latest legal, procedural and practice developments by:

  • reviewing daily and weekly email updates on an ongoing basis
  • attending monthly team meetings to discuss developments
  • attending the ‘Legal Update’ training sessions delivered by [    ] twice a year.”

There is no prescribed format for your plan. The SRA does offer a suggested template but it is for your guidance only; you may present your development plan in any other format.

The suggested template poses the following questions: What do I want/need to learn? What will I do to achieve this? What resources or support will I need? What will my success criteria be? Target dates for review and completion.

Addressing your needs will involve undertaking learning and development activities. Any approach to learning and development is valid as long as you can demonstrate it contributes to how you remain competent to deliver a proper standard of service. Methods might include formal training, shared learning, informal training, and research, reading and discussion.

Your record

Recording and evaluation is an important final step. Once you have completed activity to address your learning and development needs, you should:

  • record the activity you have undertaken; and
  • evaluate whether the activity addressed your learning and development needs.

Again, the SRA offers a suggested template but, again, it is for your guidance only; you may present your record in any other format.

The suggested template poses the following questions: What did you do? Why? What did you learn from this? How have/will you use this? Any further action?

An alternative format for your plan

The SRA suggested templates are presented in a complex tabular format. Whilst they may provide a useful reference to what should go into your plan, we believe most practitioners will be much more comfortable preparing and maintaining a simpler document in a linear format, with headed sections setting out your needs, your planned activities, and then your record of completed activities and evaluation.

This is the approach we have taken in presenting the Plan in our CPD 2017 service. Once you have set up a Plan, we present ready-made Objectives (rationalising your needs), then list the Activities (courses) you have selected. As you complete each course, you complete the associated form, providing completion details and recording your evaluation. Then update your Record.

Should you wish to copy any of this text or merge the information into a larger master plan, you can simply copy and paste direct from the Record web page.

Your annual declaration

You need to make the following annual declaration for each practice year ended 31 October:

“I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.”

The declaration can be made using the following PCRE forms: RF1RB, RF1RSP, RF1NRE and RF3R. Either individual solicitors, or entities who complete the PCRE on behalf of solicitors they employ, can make the declaration in the relevant section of these forms.

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