Where has all the legal training gone?
The consumer to-day is aware of his rights, demands exceptional customer service or else finds it elsewhere and expects novel solutions to his problems not answers to questions he has not asked. The customer not interested in the difficulties the profession faces. The question is how do we deliver the service accurately and competently for the price the customer expects?
I asked myself these questions several months ago and me and my team have been trying to find the answers since in terms of the type of training provision lawyers want at the price you are prepared to pay.
Change, change, change
Pretty much all we know about running our legal practices and retaining our practising certificates is changing; whilst at the same time consumers of legal services are not automatically becoming clients of law firms because there is significant competition for legal services, particularly those for private individuals. The way in which training is delivered is changing too not only to meet a difference in cost but also to use new tools and fresh thinking.
Back to the future
When I set up LawSkills in 2000 its aim was to help lawyers manage. I believe that my company is well placed now to do just that in this difficult market.
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I have learnt over the past 12 years or more that Wills, Probate, Trust & Tax practitioners come in all shapes and sizes from the novice to the expert as you would expect. However, many of you ask me to conduct the same training to all your members – I am sure you see this as getting value for money but is this truly the way to harness the expert’s skill and hone it? To develop the junior’s know-how not just about technical matters but the practice of law? Would it not be best to have a facilitated discussion on a discrete area for experts whilst having a case study type session or detailed workshop for the more junior members?
Not for many years have the pressures on private practice been quite so high as in the last few years with our regulators making it a principle of our system to practice that we must plan our business and manage risk to protect the clients we serve.
At the moment we are all in the process of deciding who to nominate as Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and Compliance Officer for Finance & Administration (COFA) – the nomination forms went live on 31 May and we have until 31 July to submit them to the SRA.
At the same time that our regulators are introducing these changes there is the Legal Education Training Review underway the outcome of which will result in new requirements to both qualify as a lawyer but also to maintain your practising certificate. Any changes to the current CPD requirements are unlikely to be announced until 2013 and therefore may come into effect from November 2013.
If that were not enough the Legal Services Board announced on 23 April 2012 that it is to recommend the regulation of those providing Will writing, probate and estate administration services for a fee. Whilst this is welcome its consultation document indicates that part of the requirements it is likely to impose on the regulatory bodies concerned, like the SRA, is the need to ensure its members receive appropriate training.
This will mean the SRA will have to be satisfied that those solicitors undertaking Will writing, probate and estate administration services can demonstrate that they have met any standards which the SRA sets by way of relevant CPD.
It might be interesting for you to know that from January 2013 all individuals who operate within financial services and provide retail investment advice to clients have to provide evidence of a minimum of 35 hours of appropriate and relevant CPD per annum. It seems to me highly likely that the SRA will adopt a similar approach for lawyers – a doubling of the CPD requirement!
Managing the training budget
When money is tight your firms quite rightly are careful in how much you spend on training. Many of you have cut back on face-to-face training and there has been an explosion in the use of webinars. Even without constraints on cost the development of different means of delivering learning is good news.
I want LawSkills to help you manage your training budget to good effect now but also help you to cover the cost of the possible doubling of the CPD hours in 2013 and beyond. How can we help you ensure that all your staff are appropriately trained? How will they demonstrate this to the satisfaction of the firm’s COLP and the SRA? How will your COLP sleep easy at night? How will you do what is necessary and keep financially afloat?
I am reviewing the services offered by LawSkills and updating the website so now is the time to let Sue and I know what you want for the price you are prepared to pay and we will take your views into account when honing our services in August 2012.
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