CPD – Have you done enough to be competent in 2021-22?

 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.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is something all professionals need to do in order to be in practice. For solicitors, the SRA has not required you to undertake 16 hours of CPD per practising year since 1 November 2016, but it does require practising solicitors to continue to be competent in whatever role they perform. This means you must keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date.

So, if you don’t have to undertake 16 hours of CPD per practising year, what do you have to do? You need to:

  • Take responsibility for your personal learning and development
  • Reflect and learn from your practice and learn from other people
  • Accurately evaluate your strengths and limitation in relation to the demands of your work
  • Maintain an adequate and up-to-date understanding of relevant law, policy and practice
  • Adapt your practice to address developments in the delivery of legal service

Also, it is the firm’s responsibility to ensure that its managers and employees are competent to carry out their role. Does your firm do this? Some firms still use a benchmark of a number of hours of CPD to ensure that their members keep up their competence. But the point about continuing competence is actually to identify and plan what you need and how you are going to learn.

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16 or any number of other hours is not necessarily helpful since as a newly qualified solicitor you may need mostly skills training and this might be best achieved through in house coaching systems and practice. This could easily take more than 16 hours to achieve competence and maintain it over a number of years. Similarly, an experienced solicitor newly promoted into a management or leadership role may well have significant learning requirements to assist them in managing people and meeting the firm’s goals for their team rather than technical knowledge which just needs regular updating with new developments.

A senior partner or consultant solicitor may feel they have all the experience in the world as far as dealing with clients and understanding their area of law is concerned but may have not kept up to date with regulatory matters. The problem with this is what happens when they need to act urgently on a matter out of the office where there is no-one to ask or when they have not identified the issue for themselves? All practitioners need to have a minimum level of competence as far as regulation is concerned.

Most practitioners take pride in being up to date and do take responsibility for their own learning. At LawSkills we provide a Monthly Digest which summarises the developments in law, policy and practice which have occurred over the prior four weeks and deliver this to individuals or to a firm for distribution to its members. This is an easy way for everyone to keep up to date and competent on technical matters in Wills, Probate, Trusts, Tax and Elderly client law, policy and practice.

However, that is not enough if we have particular roles to perform or we are at a certain stage in our career. For example, recently I joined a STEP webinar put on by the Mental Capacity Special Interest Group on the law relevant to the assessment of testamentary capacity. The discussion was around the potential conflict between the Banks v Goodfellow test and the test in the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It provoked me to reflect on recent cases where the tests were discussed and write a LinkedIn piece about it. I regard both the listening to the webinar and the reflection as time counting to my continuing competence. For others who did not attend I would regard the reading of the LinkedIn post as part of their continuing competence particularly if it sparked them as a team leader to discuss the issues with their team and to update any internal checklist or guidance for Will drafters on this issue.

There is always something on the LawSkills website to jog you into further learning and development, be it thought provoking articles which are free, or web shop products which are competitively priced.

The SRA provides a learning and development template to help you structure your learning and development in line with the SRA continuing competence requirements. It is not too late to prepare your plan for 2021-22 and record what you have done so far to further your competence and identify what more you need to do before 31 October 2022.

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