All change: solicitors’ mandatory CPD training requirement set to be abolished
The Legal Services Board (LSB) is set to vote on a proposal introduced by the SRA as part of its ‘Training for Tomorrow’ programme to remove the mandatory requirement for all practitioners to complete 16 hours’ worth of CPD training per annum.
It is an accepted part of the role as a qualified solicitor that ongoing training should be undertaken. The legal system is a dynamic, fast-changing environment within which to work and, if the highest service standards are to be maintained, legal advisers must be aware of the latest statutory developments and case law.
The SRA’s recent proposal to scrap its mandatory training requirements has come as a surprise to many with a varied response by professionals. It is suggested that, subject to approval by the LSB, the system will be phased out entirely by November 2016. Training providers will also no longer need to be accredited or authorised by the SRA.
Does it really matter?
The existing system is acknowledged by many to be flawed; every practitioner at some stage will have witnessed a senior partner colleague sitting through a lease negotiation session targeted at Real Estate NQs in order to tick off their CPD requirement. So will the proposals make any difference to the profession?
o How could your firm be affected?
For larger firms, training will already be an integral part of the business and, whilst courses and programmes will no longer need to be accredited, these firms are more likely to continue to invest in their people to ensure they are trained to an adequate standard simply because they have the resources to do so. The employment of Professional Support Lawyers within teams in many instances will also aid ongoing professional development.
In smaller practices, however, the proposals may present a greater challenge. To remove training costs from a firm’s budget will present a substantial saving; firms could, in theory, suggest that solicitors pay for their own training where this is not a mandatory requirement by the SRA. This lack of incentive could mean that smaller firms are unable to keep up with their larger counterparts as those who continue to undertake a regular training programme steal a march on firms with fewer resources.
o The domino effect: client contact and business development
One lawyer QC Legal has spoken to about the proposals was concerned about the potential effects on face-to-face client contact:
“Training is integral to my firm’s client care offering; we run CPD-accredited training for clients’ in-house legal teams which not only help them to satisfy their CPD requirements but also enable us to meet contacts in person and maintain a good client relationship. Removing the need for us to visit and train clients may result in far fewer opportunities to meet team members and engage with them.”
What should we expect?
In reality, it should be assumed that most reputable firms will see the value in continuing to train their staff and ensure that they are up to speed with latest developments. Practitioners will have more flexibility about the training they receive; instead of attending last-minute sessions not relevant to their role they will be able to choose to attend an event far more bespoke.
Competition in the industry is fierce and the SRA has said that it will continue to review the competency of solicitors on the Roll; those who choose not to keep up will find themselves left behind so whilst the incentive of a mandatory requirement is no longer present, we expect that the importance of retaining clients and a position in the marketplace will be sufficient to ensure that standards do not drop.