Monthly Archives: May 2016

Frequently asked questions about changes to CPD and continuing competence

Over the past year we have have conducted scores of interviews with law firms, solicitors and leading SRA officials on the topic of continuing competence. Below is a compilation of the most frequently asked questions. The SRA’s view is from Senior Policy Advisor Richard Williams who spoke with VinciWorks Director of Practice Gary Yantin.

16 hours worked fine for 30 years. Why the change?

Under the 16-hour approach there was never a guarantee that CPD was resulting in more competent solicitors. One of the roles of the SRA is to protect the interests of the public and ensure access to skilled legal work. This is the purpose of Principle 5 of the Handbook: “you must provide a proper standard of service to your clients.” The new approach focuses on achieving that goal, not micro-managing solicitors’ time.

We are in the middle of the second optional year. How is adoption coming along?

Internal polling at the SRA shows that a majority of firms have already adopted the new approach. The SRA has heard from many firms who are reaping benefits from the change. Despite the good news, the SRA still recognises that it will probably take many years for firm culture to shift away from a tick-box mindset to a culture of competency.

How challenging do you think it will be for firms to adopt the new approach?

For most firms trepidation about change is probably more challenging than the actual adoption. In research that the SRA conducted when preparing for the new approach, it discovered that many firms already have systems in place for learning reviews and performance reviews. These types of activities are exactly what the SRA expects will be a fundamental part of continuing competence. Therefore for many firms the internal procedures necessary for the new approach are, in fact, already in place.

What does enforcement look like under the new approach?

There needs to be a shift in mindset. What the SRA is enforcing is not necessarily whether people have full learning plans, rather it is enforcing Principle 5. Under OFR a regulator should not look at any particular regulatory requirement in isolation.

The SRA takes a risk-based, holistic approach to compliance. They track complaints, tips, other factors, info from the PCRE etc. to establish who might be an at-risk solicitor or an at-risk firm. They will then have a discussion with the solicitor or firm in which they will evaluate the training records to see if any further action is necessary.

What records do solicitors have to keep?

There is an expectation that firms will keep copies of learning reflections and training records. In the event that a solicitor’s competence is questioned, the SRA might request a copy of those records. There will not be a requirement that the records be kept for 6 years, as was required in the past. The requirement will be for records related to current issues of competence.

Does the requirement fall on the firm or the solicitor?

The requirement of Principle 5 to “deliver a proper level of service” is true for both solicitors and firms. Therefore the obligations of continuing competence fall on both. In addition, in order for a firm to deliver a  “proper level of service” firms will be required to train and ensure the competency of non-lawyers and administrative staff.

Can you really sign the annual declaration without doing any training?

A solicitor that considers his/her needs and decides that no training is required, can indeed tick the box on the annual statement. The statement is:

“I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.”

If you have reflected on your practice and genuinely not identified any learning and development needs, then you do not require training.

Some firms are planning to continue requiring 16 hours, or 4 hours from approved providers as a means of monitoring compliance. What is the SRA’s view? Is this an effective means of monitoring?

The SRA is aware of this approach and they have even heard of firms requiring 32 hours! Ultimately from the SRA’s perspective any number of hours is arbitrary. They will be regulating competence not a number of hours. Despite this fact, this might be a sensible way for a firm to measure competence on a macro level.

Under the new approach, will Solicitors likely train for more or less than 16 hours?

There is no rule for whether there will be more or less learning under the new system. The amount of learning undertaken depends on a range of factors including seniority and area of practice. From VinciWorks conversations with firms another factor will be the firm’s’ own attitude to learning. For most of the firms we spoke to there is a common view that erring on the side of doing more learning can do no harm.

How flexible are the new types of learning?

Completely flexible. Any learning is valid if it meets an identified need. From speaking with early adopter firms, VinciWorks has identified this as an area that solicitors and their firms are likely to struggle with in the early years of competency. While the SRA are keen to point out that watching YouTube or listening to podcasts are adequate forms of learning, the firms we have spoken to appear to be sticking with tradition for now with classroom and online modular learning being the favoured forums.  

With the removal of accredited training suppliers, we wanted to know if there was a concern about a decline in quality

The SRA have no such concern. It is up to the market to create good quality learning without being restricted by having to achieve and maintain SRA approval. The SRA maintains that the market will do a far better job of establishing learning leaders than the SRA could. With this level of freedom from suppliers and for solicitors, alternative methods of learning are likely to emerge. Most firms will be watching their peers and competitors in the early years for guidance on what works.

The VinciWorks Continuing Competence Module

VinciWorks has developed a full software solution for compliance with the SRA’s new approach to continuing competence. The module is free for individuals and includes optional monitoring tools for firms. Click here to learn more and sign up for free.

VinciWorks launches Continuing Competence Module

A compliance software system designed specifically for the SRA’s new approach to CPD

On 1 November 2016, the legal profession will experience a momentous change to the manner in which solicitors remain competent. After that date, every solicitor in England will be required to demonstrate that they have reflected on their abilities to deliver competent legal practice, and bridged the gaps in their competence through learning. This reflective approach replaces the current system, whereby every solicitor undertakes a flat 16 hours of learning.

This new regime has left many confused. In the largest poll conducted on the issue, VinciWorks found that confusion amongst solicitors is the number one concern of compliance departments on the eve of these new regulations.

Continuing Competence Module

VinciWorks has used this survey as well as interviews with firms, solicitors and the SRA, to  develop a full software solution for compliance with the SRA’s new approach to continuing competence. The module alleviates the confusion around the process by guiding solicitors step-by-step through the new requirements. It show solicitors how to perform the four steps in the SRA’s guidance:

  • Reflect on your practice to identify your learning and development needs
  • Plan how you will address your learning and development needs
  • Record and evaluate your learning activity in order to demonstrate to the SRA that you have taken steps to ensure your ongoing competence
  • Make an annual declaration to confirm you have completed the above

Continuing competence module for SRA changes to CPD

Free for individuals

This compliance module is completely free for individual solicitors and is available today. Firms will be able to purchase monitoring, reporting and user management tools to automate compliance on an organisational level.

Features of the continuing competence module

The VinciWorks Continuing Competence Module features everything solicitors and firms needs to comply with the SRA’s new approach to continuing competence.

  • Simple user interface to guide solicitors through the reflective learning process
  • Mobile friendly
  • Robust admin dashboard and reporting to monitor online compliance
  • Built-in compliance course with best-practice guidance

According to Yehuda Solomont, Director of Marketing at VinciWorks, this is the first solution that has been created with direct input from the SRA.

“During the development process, we received guidance from several people at the SRA, including Richard Williams, the senior policy advisor on changes to CPD. As you can see in the video demonstration, VinciWorks’ background in education produced a simple and intuitive interface that naturally guides and educates the user.”

Sign up for free

To sign up for free visit http://vinciworks.com/competence

To see a full video demonstration visit: http://vinciworks.com/products/continuing_competence_module

SRA’s new approach to CPD: a poll of best practice

VinciWorks has concluded the largest poll ever conducted on attitudes towards the SRA’s new approach to continuing competency. The poll illuminates many industry trends and provides a better understanding of best practice. We emailed about 5,000 firms and heard from 206 of varying sizes, from sole practitioners to magic circle firms. Here are the results.

Challenges to adoption

Any new regulation is fraught with uncertainty. Constant communication, and a clear justification for change are key parts of any transition. The SRA has considerable experience on this front through its work on outcomes-focussed regulation. However, CPD is a tricky one. Solicitors are used to just recording CPD, and an hours-based approach to learning makes sense to people that bill by the hour.

Challenges to adoption

Early signs indicate that the SRA’s competence toolkit has been a useful tool in communicating the changes. However there are still challenges ahead. It seems that compliance officers and L&D managers are well educated on the changes, but that information has not trickled down to solicitors. “Confusion amongst solicitors as to the requirements” is the primary challenge identified in the survey. In other words, many solicitors simply do not understand what the requirements are when CPD ends. Firms must act to educate all solicitors, not just the learning and compliance departments.

The second greates challenge to adoption is solicitors not doing any hours at all under continuing competence. The fear is that solicitors will try to game the system and claim that they are compliant without undertaking any learning.

Creating a learning plan

The new requirement is that solicitors must be thoughtful and deliberate about their learning. CPD must have a plan. We asked firms how they believe solicitors will created these learning plans.

learning-firms

According to this poll, most solicitors will create a plan with the aid of a line manager or learning specialist. This ensures that learning is tied in tightly with performance.

These findings are in line with the SRA’s internal research. In that research the SRA discovered that many firms already have systems in place for learning reviews and performance reviews. These types of activities are exactly what the SRA expects will be a fundamental part of continuing competence. Therefore for many firms the internal procedures necessary for the new approach are, in fact, already in place.

New styles of learning

Under the new approach, any learning is valid if it meets an identified need. This opens the door to many non-conventional learning approaches. We asked firms how radical a position they will take on the idea that “any” activity could be learning.

Styles of learning

From speaking with early adopter firms, VinciWorks has identified this as an area that solicitors and their firms are likely to struggle with in the early years of competency. While officials at the SRA are keen to point out that watching YouTube or listening to podcasts are adequate forms of learning, the firms we have spoken to appear to be sticking with tradition for now. Classroom and online modular learning being the favoured forums.

Monitoring compliance

Under hours-based CPD monitoring was easy. Your employees either completed 16 hours, or they didn’t. With continuing competence, monitoring poses a challenge for firms. They will have to come up with innovate approaches to monitoring and measuring competence. We asked firms what approaches they will take to monitoring.

Monitor compliance

As demonstrated by the poll some firms are planning to continue requiring 16 hours, or 4 hours from approved providers as a means of monitoring compliance. However the SRA does not view this favourably. The SRA is aware of this approach and they have even heard of firms requiring 32 hours! Ultimately from the SRA’s perspective any number of hours is arbitrary. They will be regulating competence not a number of hours. Despite this fact, this might be a sensible way for a firm to measure competence on a macro level.

The VinciWorks Continuing Competence Module

Using the data from this survey, as well as interviews with firms and the SRA, VinciWorks has developed a full software solution for compliance with the SRA’s new approach to continuing competence. The module is free for individuals and includes optional monitoring tools for firms. Click here to learn more sign up for free

Book a free continuing competence workshop at Legalex – Stand L270

VinciWorks will be delivering free continuing competence workshops at Legalex (stand L270).

These 20-minute workshops will draw on our conversations with leading figures at the SRA and early adopters of the new approach to CPD.

Attendees will learn how to identify learning needs, build a learning and development plan and consider methods for recording and demonstrating that they have fulfilled the SRA’s requirements.

  • Sessions every hour
  • Only six people per session
  • Limited space
  • Stand L270

Register now

If you don’t already have tickets to Legalex, you can order tickets free of charge. Legalex is the largest exhibition focused on the business behind law. The conference is hosted in London at ExCeL and is open from 10:00 to 17:00.

VinciWorks will also be giving more in-depth talks during the conference:

  • Practice Management Theatre, Wednesday 17:00
  • Firms of the Future Theatre, Thursday 13:00