The Legal Services Board (LSB) is continuing with its full-frontal assault on lawyer competence and the need for legal services regulators to ensure that lawyers have the necessary skills, knowledge and behaviours to provide good quality legal services.
A new statutory statement of policy on ongoing competence has been published by the LSB setting out clear outcomes that legal services regulators should meet including in relation to a regulators’ performance assessment framework.
The launch of the new statement is the culmination of extensive policy development since 2019, including a wide public consultation and call for evidence, independent research and cross-sector engagement.
With the new statement, all legal regulators are to be required to set standards of competence, get a better understanding of lawyers’ competence, and set new measures to ensure standards are maintained. The statement of policy is designed to be risk-based, outcomes-focused and flexible for the regulators to implement across their regulated communities.
These changes will, the LSB claim, drive improved consumer outcomes, by protecting consumers from harm and will build public trust and confidence in the legal sector.
The LSB take the view that currently there are very few routine or formal measures to ensure that lawyers keep their knowledge up-to-date while practising. This is out of step with public expectations and with approaches taken in other professions and research conducted during the project shows a gap between what the public expects regarding lawyers’ competence and the current checks in place. It reveals that:
- 95% of people believe lawyers should have to demonstrate they remain competent throughout their careers.
- When informed about current arrangements, almost nine in ten people (87%) think legal services regulators should do more to reduce the risk of a lack of competence undermining public trust in the legal system.
The LSB expects regulators to have fully implemented measures by January 2024 and has asked for progress updates by January 2023.
From the perspective of solicitors firms, it is likely, therefore, that there will be requirements from the SRA for solicitors not only to undertake a minimum level of continuing competence training but also that this will need to be more clearly recorded and checked. The current system allows solicitors to review and set their own level of continuing competence training together with the means by which it is achieved.