Are you enjoying the right blend?

 In Gill's Blog

Disclaimer: LawSkills provides training for the legal industry and does not provide legal advice to members of the public. For help or guidance please seek the services of a qualified practitioner.

I am not talking coffee or smoothies; I am of course talking about learning. Since continuing professional development (CPD) came along the legal profession has pretty much equated it with 16 hours of lectures per practising year. This resulted in crazy bunching of training in some cases.

From 1 November this year the solicitor’s system of CPD changes radically; but, from my observations, many individuals and firms have not caught up with what is required to be compliant. This is sad because the new system, once you have got your head around it, provides you with a great chance to put together the right blend of learning for you.

The system from 1 November in a nutshell

All solicitors from 1 November 2016 must be competent. If your competence to practice is called into question, perhaps through a client complaint, you must be able to demonstrate to the SRA that you have taken appropriate steps to ensure your ongoing competence.

Failure to be able to show the regulator that you have competence to practice, in accordance with Principle 5 of the SRA’s Handbook; and failure to demonstrate that you have reflected on the quality of your practice, may be an aggravating factor in any action the SRA takes.

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The key words here are ‘reflection’ and ‘you’. It is the responsibility of each of us to reflect on our competence to practice and to raise our game as appropriate.

What is competence?

The SRA take this view: “The ability to perform the roles and tasks required by one’s job to the expected standard” – Eraut & du Boulay, 2001. The SRA Competence Statement is divided into three parts:

  • What all solicitors should be able to do – there are a number of requirements set out under four main headings:
    • Ethics
    • Technical Legal Practice
    • Working with other people
    • Managing themselves & their own work
  • The threshold standard – There are five levels set out in the standard. On qualification a solicitor has to have reached level 3 – an acceptable standard achieved routinely in straightforward tasks although complex tasks may take refinement; If you are well beyond newly qualified then be aware there are two further levels – 4 & 5: Level 4 requires a full acceptable standard to be met routinely; Level 5 is where excellence is achieved with ease.
  • A statement of legal knowledge – You should read the statement – again it might spark a learning need, particularly on the ethics & professional conduct side. It lists all the areas of knowledge which a solicitor needs to know on qualification; obviously, the legal, rather than the ethical and professional conduct, topics will later depend on your area of specialism.

You can find the full details at:

Only you, perhaps with help from your colleagues, can assess what you need to do to be competent and over what period of time. You need to:

CPD start here graphic


Once you have reflected on what you need to do you must create a plan to achieve it. You need to think about:

  • What you need to do
  • Why
  • When do you need to do it
  • How you might approach it

It is no longer simply a question of finding 16 hours of courses to attend. You must really think about what needs to be done. The great thing is that you can now choose any type of learning method and any kind of provider you like to work towards your goals.

Mix your blend

‘Blended learning’ comprises an effective combination of different ways of learning and so can include styles which suit you best. Blended learning combines online and classroom learning activities and uses resources in the best way for you.

Straight away you can see that this might best be organised within your firm rather than attending external events exclusively. An experienced person could coach you in setting and meeting your goals as well as providing the resources you need.

Think how powerful this approach can be for a firm – because it can link your competence to the firm’s business goals to help the firm achieve what it set out to do too.

Think how much more enjoyable it will be for you – your favourite cocktail might be rum punch whereas your colleague might prefer a pina-colada. You will both be able to enjoy your favourite blend under the new approach rather than both be bored with the old system.

There is nothing wrong with preferring to learn by attending a lecture, but you might find you remember what was said better if you listen to a webinar first or read some notes and do a quiz. You might be able to apply your knowledge more effectively and retain it more easily if you then spend the time you would have spent in a lecture applying the knowledge to real work in a collaborative session with a facilitator.

I agree it is more work to start with until you have got used to it but I guarantee it will be more effective and more fun in the end.

For more information on blended learning, learning needs analysis and in-house learning and development opportunities please contact Gill Steel – or call 01962 776442.  I can set you on the right track so continuing your professional development is not a headache.

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