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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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