Are you continuing to be competent?

 In Gill's Blog, Practice Management

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.

SRA Price Transparency rulesFrom 1 November 2016 it became mandatory for solicitors to:

  • Reflect on the quality of your practice by reference to the SRA Competence Statement to identify your learning and development needs
  • Plan and address your learning & development needs
  • Record the above information
  • Make an annual declaration to confirm you have completed the above

Practitioners still mention to me they have not completed their 16 hours of CPD this year even though we left these rules behind for good in October 2016. I wonder just how many people are complying with the new system and truly say they have reflected on their own competence and put in place a plan to address identified learning and development needs. Have you?

Approach to in-house training

I do get asked by some firms to provide in-house training the topics for which are often the result of some of those present reflecting on the perceived competence of some of their members and seeking learning and development events to plug the gap. This is admirable but all too often the opportunity is taken to cram in too many topics so there is insufficient time to properly explore what people really need to improve, which might be skills and not just knowledge.

What is ‘competence’?

The SRA’s Competence Statement chose to take a broad definition of what is meant by competence. It states it is being “the ability to perform the roles and tasks required by one’s job to the expected standard” (Eraut & du Boulay, 2001). This is meant to reflect the fact that a solicitor over their career will move upwards from meeting the threshold standard expected on qualification to achieving excellence in dealing with complex transactions with ease and developing innovative solutions and ways forward in unpredictable situations.

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Qualifications or abilities?

If you like, the qualifications we started out with in our career matter less and less. Even the skills we had when we began become less important. It matters instead how we tackle a problem, perhaps across a team, which we have to manage to carry out assignments and complete matters for clients but also projects for the firm. It becomes increasingly important as senior practitioners that we are good with people – not just clients but also staff.

We also need to be able to bring order to a confused and ill- defined situation, like the current mess we are in over the possible increase in probate fees, and help staff to handle this situation creatively, even while being under pressure to get work done ourselves.

Handling change

Can you keep on changing, letting go of old ways of doing things and learning new ways? This is hard but with developments that range from demonstrating your firm is open for business following the change in rules on price transparency, to the more prosaic change from preparing Oaths to obtain a Grant of Representation to preparing statements of truth; change is all around.

So are you still performing the roles and tasks required by your current job to the expected standard or have the roles and tasks changed, the standard raised and your abilities dimmed through lack of practice?

Taking a different look at learning

Most courses which practitioners attend focus on Statement of Competence A2 (4) which says ‘Maintaining an adequate and up-to-date understanding of the relevant law, policy and practice’. However, there are other points raised in the Statement of Competence which should be addressed by solicitors, particularly senior solicitors.

When you engage me to undertake in-house training why not think wider and consider the needs of practitioners, in line with the Statement of Competence, to enable all involved to reflect on what learning and development needs should be met for them, at the right levels to make a positive difference?

Make learning pay

To gain competitive advantage in business you must invest in your people; to differentiate your firm from others invest to make a positive difference. To do that you need a clear business plan which learning and development can support.

If you wish to not only comply with the Training Regulations but harness the learning required to the business goals you seek to achieve give us a ring (01962 776442) or contact us by email to see if we can help you bridge the gap.

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