The Legal Services Board (LSB) is continuing to argue for the re-introduction of continuing competence checks for lawyers.
Following its call for evidence in relation to continuing competence and the review that it undertook of competence frameworks in other countries, the LSB has now published research which, it says, highlights the importance the public places on lawyers having the right knowledge, up to date skills and attributes to provide good quality legal services.
The LSB state that the research has found a gap between public expectation and what regulation currently requires to ensure lawyers remain competent throughout their careers.
The survey, which sought the views of 1,005 people in England and Wales, found that over half (55%) assume that lawyers face regular checks of their skills and abilities like other professionals, such as doctors, pilots and teachers and that the vast majority (95%) believe lawyers should have to demonstrate that they remain competent throughout their careers.
With the research revealing that 87% of participants believed legal services regulators should do more to reduce the risk of a lack of competence and a similar proportion 88% agreeing that there should be more consistency in competence requirements across the legal profession, this clearly places pressure upon the SRA to think seriously about the reintroduction of some form of compulsory competence checks.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, said:
“This research shows that there is a gap between what the public expect when it comes to lawyers’ competence and what checks are currently in place. We will be developing our thinking on what more needs to be done in this area to build public confidence, and engaging widely on our emerging thoughts.”
These issues have been aired before. An article in the Law Society’s Gazette back in February 2021 (‘The public expects more’: Lawyers likely to face new CPD demands) concluded that “It is likely that solicitors and firms will have to adapt to a new CPD regime”. It is perhaps worth noting that in 2019, a survey of 463 law firms and solicitors by the SRA revealed that 40% undertook more professional training then, than they had under the previous compulsory CPD scheme, with 52% “doing about the same amount”.
Not that previous methods of monitoring CPD will necessarily be the way forward. A report produced for the LSB – “International Approaches to Ongoing Competence” – looked at how competence was assessed in other countries and concluded that the methods employed in Alberta, the Netherlands, Australia and Scotland, in particular, could inform the LSB’s work on how legal regulators should monitor and assure ongoing competence in England and Wales.
Whatever the outcome, it may be worth noting that the systems now being implemented by Infolegal in relation to regulatory and practice management related training are likely to be able to assist all firms in demonstrating compliance with training and continuing competence – an area which we are actively developing and making more relevant to firm’s needs. Using online training resources coupled with quizzes to test understanding and a management hub to allow firms to monitor how staff are performing it is a simple process for Infolegal member firms to be able to demonstrate ongoing competence in relation to regulatory and management related matters – and is to form the basis of an expansion into other areas of core skills.