A Competence Statement for Solicitors – Our thoughts PART I


Unless you’ve been hiding your head in the sand for the past 6 months, you can’t have failed to notice the sweeping reform to Solicitors CPD Training that’s heading our way next year. A shift from ‘process’ training (i.e. 16 hours CPD) to ‘skills and knowledge’ training that ensures the ‘Continuing Competence’ of a solicitor.

Following the first phase of its consultation process on the changes, the SRA has now taken its first steps towards defining what a ‘Competent Solicitor’ should look like (published 20th October 2014 click here). And, unsurprisingly, they’d like to know what you think of it so far.

Now we know what a busy profession you are; so finding the time to wade through the 29 page document is not going to be top of your priority list. Therefore, we thought we’d do it for you and give you the report highlights (blog Part I), as well as our own take on things (blog part II).

Starting point

The SRA want to start by defining the standards expected of a solicitor on qualification. By doing so, the education and training requirements can then be geared towards supporting the acquisition and retention of these standards.

What makes a competent solicitor?

This is broken down into 4 key core activities:

  1. Ethical behaviour
  2. Technical skills – legal knowledge, drafting, negotiating and researching
  3. Management of work – planning, prioritising and record keeping
  4. Working/communicating with other people

How these qualities are demonstrated will vary according to practice area and experience. What is clear however, is that there will be a ‘threshold’ level of competence that those wishing to qualify must demonstrate. The SRA are currently considering by what mechanism they can be assured that new solicitors meet this threshold.

They are therefore, mooting the possibility of written exams, supervised skills assessment, structured clinical assessments or work based assessments. Whichever approach they decide to take, demonstrates that the SRA means business when it comes to ensuring that solicitors are competent.

And rightly so.

As the SRA point out in their report, the standard expected of a solicitor is not just a matter for the legal profession, but society as a whole. This is reflected by their proposal to incorporate the ‘Competence Statement’ into the Handbook by an amendment to the notes to Principle 5, therefore making it clear that complying with the Competence Statement is one requirement of providing a proper standard of service.

‘Competence Statement’

It will be the ‘Competence Statement’ that will inform:

  1. Education and training providers (like us) about what courses they need to develop. We think it will prompt training providers and law firms to develop bespoke training plans that reflect the needs of the business and individuals.
  2. Trainee solicitors what they need to demonstrate in order to qualify; and
  3. Practising solicitors what they need to do to maintain their competence.

At the same time the SRA will require, “solicitors to consider their training needs on an annual basis to take appropriate measures to maintain their competence.” In many ways, this is making it harder for solicitors (sorry!). Rather than dutifully collecting CPD hours (irrespective of relevance to practice area or personal training needs), ALL training activity must be appropriate to an individual’s requirement, planned and properly recorded.

Training managers, individuals and Managing Partners therefore need to give some thought as to how they are going to satisfy the SRA that they are ‘Competent Solicitors’.

Part II of our blog will give our response to the SRA’s latest consultation paper and give a few tips for planning training for tomorrow.

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Cutting through the ‘red-tape’ of training: the SRA propose axing Management Course Stage 1.

The SRA has launched a consultation about removing the requirement for solicitors to undertake Management Course Stage 1.  We’ve been teaching the course for over 10 years and one thing we know is that delegates always learn lots of simple lessons that stick with them for a long time.

We also know that making delegates undertake this 7 hour face-to-face course is too prescriptive and lacks the flexibility that lawyers need to have when it comes to their training. It’s no exaggeration that at the start of this course we are often met with a sea of grumpy faces; lawyers who are busy and who would prefer to be at their desks.

However, in the words of one recent delegate, they would “recommend the course to everyone, as it was infinitely better than expected” and they “learnt a lot.”

So what should firms be doing to train their young lawyers if/once the Management Course stage 1 is scrapped? Here are 3 simple ideas:

1.It’s a chance for firms to review what management training their lawyers actually need; not simply what the SRA prescribes. Firms should develop bespoke management training that covers client relations, finance, people management and information.

2.Consult with staff, lawyers, partners and clients to discover what skills lawyers should have as a manager. How well do clients think their expectations are managed? Do your accounts staff get frustrated because the lawyers don’t bother to get familiar with the firm’s finance procedures?

3.Develop training that’s bite-sized, including e-learning modules that cover all the key management skills. Your lawyers want training that can be done at a time and place that suits them.

If you’d like to discuss your firms training needs get in touch. We’re friendly, knowledgeable and easy to work with. We have a bank of ‘ready to go’ courses and the skills and resources needed to develop bespoke e-learning modules exclusively for your firm.

Get in touch to see how we can help.  kath@kinchrobinson.com

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Effective RTA litigation training

Over the past 12 months we’ve developed a unique and exclusive RTA litigation training course aimed at fast-track RTA litigators. The course has three modules covering liability, special damages and general damages that are delivered through a series of one-day workshops.

The course is perfect for firms that have bulk RTA work but who don’t have the internal manpower or time to deliver detailed training to those carrying out the work. Our tutors are experienced solicitors and barristers who use a range of teaching methods to deliver this imaginative, highly practical and hugely popular course.

After completing each module, delegates take an online assessment to check understanding and identify any areas where additional support may be needed. These assessments are a great management tool. Not only can you use the tests as part of your recruitment process, but you get to identify your ‘high flyers’!

So ask yourself…does your team know a good claim from a bad one? Do they know their stuff on law and procedure? Do they run their large RTA caseloads as effectively and efficiently as possible?

If the answer is ‘NO’, please get in touch to discuss our programme in more detail. #AskKath 0114 273 8300

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A shiny new website

After several months of sweat and (a few) tears, we’re delighted to be able to launch the all new Kinch Robinson website.

As well as being jam-packed with details of all our courses, our News desk will keep you up to speed on all the latest training developments within the profession, as well as all our news.

There is something on the site for everyone. Whether you’re a training manager looking for some inspiring courses that won’t break the bank, or an individual looking to fine-tune your writing skills via an online training course – this site is the place to be!

Whilst websites are great, we also love to chat in person about how we can help with your training needs. So please pick up the phone and give us a call on 0114 2738300 and ask for Linda Moran.

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