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This Q&A considers the requirements for solicitors and law firms regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) when supervising remote workers. It considers general supervision requirements in the SRA Codes of Conduct, the supervision of trainee solicitors and additional requirements for Lexcel-accredited firms.
The SRA’s core regulatory requirements in relation to supervision are found in the two Codes of Conduct (the SRA Code for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs and the SRA Code for Firms), which should be read in the context of the SRA Principles. Additional requirements relating to supervision are peppered throughout the SRA Standards and Regulations. The core requirements include:
These requirements apply whether you are supervising work face-to-face or remotely.
• Practice Note: Supervision 2019—law firms
• Precedent: Supervision policy—law firms—2019
In Q&A published in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the SRA confirmed it is possible for trainees to work from home and there is no maximum amount of time a trainee can be supervised remotely, provided firms put in place sensible arrangements for supervisors to review trainees’ work remotely.
The SRA’s core requirements on supervision apply to all activities in your firm, including in relation to trainee solicitors. Alongside these, the SRA has specific additional requirements for the supervision of trainees.
Training must be supervised by solicitors and other individuals with the necessary skills and experience. On a day-to-day basis, trainees may be supervised by a number of different people, including partners, managers, solicitors or experienced legal executives. You should ensure supervisors have the necessary supervisory skills as well as legal knowledge and experience of their practice area.
• allocate work and tasks of an appropriate level, gradually increasing the level and complexity of the work over time, while encouraging the trainee to suggest solutions independently
• provide a balance between substantive and procedural tasks that, as a whole, demands the use of a broad range of skills
• provide clear instructions and ensure they have been understood
• offer advice and guidance on appropriate research methods and materials along with sufficient information and factual background about a case or matter
• set a realistic timescale for work to be completed and answer questions as they arise—both within a supportive environment that does not deter the trainee from asking questions in the future
• monitor the trainee’s workload to ensure they have a sufficient but not excessive amount of work
• help ensure the trainee maintains an up-to-date training record that identifies the work they have performed and the skills they have deployed
• review the training record regularly to ensure an appropriate balance of work and skills is struck
• give regular feedback to the trainee regarding their performance, recognising achievements and improvements, and constructively addressing areas that require further effort
• conduct or participate in formal appraisals of the trainee
• provide an environment that encourages the trainee to take responsibility for their own development
The SRA also requires regular review and appraisal of trainees’ performance and development:
For more information, see:
• Practice Note: Supervision of trainees
• Precedent: Guidelines for the supervision of trainees
When supervising remote workers, you will need to consider what you need to do to ensure your supervision is ‘effective’. This may involve employing different supervision practices to those you use for office-based supervision, which can be conducted face-to-face. Consider, for example:
• what methods of communication you will use to make contact with the people you are supervising
• how and when they can make contact with you
• what access staff have to learning and research resources if they are working remotely
• what systems you will put in place for reviewing work
• whether your systems allow for file audits or reviews to be carried out remotely
• how staff working remotely will keep their knowledge and skills up to date
• what arrangements you will put in place for appraisal and review meetings
Remote supervision of trainees is likely to pose greater challenges to ensure they are appropriately and effectively supervised and regularly appraised.
The Lexcel Standard for legal practices imposes certain requirements in relation to supervision.
These should be considered compulsory for firms that have or are working towards Lexcel accreditation, they are not compulsory for other firms although they provide an indicator of good practice. Among other requirements, in order to comply with the Lexcel requirements in relation to supervision you must:
• have a named supervisor for each area of work you undertake
• have a procedure to ensure all personnel, both permanent and temporary, are actively supervised
For more information, see Practice Note: Supervision 2019—law firms—Additional Lexcel requirements.
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