The SRA decides to abolish CPD from November 2016 – what now?
The SRA regulates entities and recognised sole practitioners. Leaving aside the latter for the moment, as a regulator of an entity the professionalism of a group within the entity i.e. solicitors, is not what is solely at stake here. If the entity is to provide a competent service for clients then ALL personnel need to be competent.
This means business and management skills need to be developed by those in positions of leadership but equally customer service delivery skills are needed by everyone. In addition, there are plenty of technical issues not just for solicitors but also back office staff across a range of disciplines which should be kept up to date. Commercial, entrepreneurial firms already take all this into consideration when setting their training budget and strategy. They choose to invest in their people.
I am in favour of the SRA’s Option 1 approach to training in future which will free up everyone to take control of their own development but this requires each person to be able to reflect objectively on their own strengths & weaknesses, have clear goals and ambition, know what skills it will take to achieve those goals and have time and financial resources to acquire those skills.
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A forward thinking firm will wish to enable their people to understand how the fulfilment of their role within the firm will contribute to its overall success and will provide proper support to build personal development plans accordingly. I would say that a true learning organisation would actually allocate a small budget to each person to develop themselves in a way which is advantageous to the firm and the person – so that they were free to commission their own way of learning – by podcast, video, book, qualification etc.
It is however, more than optimistic of the SRA to expect that everyone in the profession will get up to speed with this way of thinking by 1 November 2016. For some unscrupulous or short-sighted firms the change will simply provide them with the opportunity to fail to invest in their people and therefore in the future of their firm – insurers should be concerned. Such a firm will simply say ‘our staff our competent and so need no training’.
There are also those who love our profession who will also rightly say that by regulating the entity and not the solicitors within it this change will be a signal of the dumbing down of our profession since there will be no designation in future for solicitors per se to have to maintain continuing professional development as individuals in order to remain a solicitor.
I would very much like to hear what the SRA regard as the standard of competence which they say they will require to be met as they rely on this for all these changes and yet it is not expressed. Also, what penalties will exist for those entities failing to achieve and maintain the given standard? No system can be worthy of respect if there are no realistic checks and balances.
If you need any help on how to become a learning organisation please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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