What do lawyers need to know about the CPD new regime?

The biggest headline issue is that it takes away the requirement for 16 hours per year of compulsory CPD as of November 2016 when full implementation comes in. The change is about allowing people to be grown-up enough to do the learning and development that they need for their own role, whether that is two or 20 hours, and allowing firms to be more flexible in their approach to CPD.

Do you think this change is good for the profession?

Absolutely—it is a bold move. As a trainer I welcome the changes with open arms.

What struck me from the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA’s) Consultation: Training for tomorrow—A new approach to continuing competence, LNB News 05/02/2014 135 was the number of training providers who wanted to stick with 'option 3'—that is the rigid 16 hour CPD option. 'Option 1' was about moving towards what learning and development should be all about—namely, personal ownership and freedom to learn—and moving away from the mandatory approach of ‘complete 16 hours and tick the box’. (The SRA offered three options. 'Option 2' was to 'remain focused on the regulator checking that CPD has been done albeit with no mandatory hours').

The new regime represents a move towards a system that is much more progressive, albeit more scary for those who are not familiar with a different style of learning. It might be a shock for some firms but, in my view, it is not as big a change as some people think it might be.

What is the likely impact on law firms?

We are really doing lawyers a disservice to suggest that they cannot cope if they don't have to complete 16 hours of CPD each year. I work with a lot of private sector organisations who do not have a minimum CPD requirement and they manage very well in supporting continuing professional development.

Learning development should always come down to the business case rather than a ‘tick box’ approach. Some of the commentary—that if you take away the 16 hours requirement lawyers will, all of a sudden, not bother to get any training—might be true for some firms but not the majority.

Firms recognise the need to continually develop. In law firms, time in a training room is regarded as time off recording billable hours. There needs to be a clear link between the business case and why they are spending time doing this.

What will it mean for training providers?

One of the changes is that external providers such as myself will no longer have to be accredited by the SRA. There is a concern about what the standards of training are going to be like if the SRA no longer accredits. I have worked on both sides of the fence, as an external provider and in-house as someone who has had to buy-in training from people who are accredited. Being accredited is not a guarantee of good training. I have had some shocking training delivered by big name companies accredited by the SRA. I've had to use them. It is no absolute guarantee.

Do you have any insights from law firms you have worked with recently as to what they think about all this?

I act for a number of large firms such. A lot of firms of that size are engaged with the issues already. In terms of readiness, many of those firms are already there and ready—for example, they will have their own competency frameworks in place. I do not think anything that the SRA will produce will be a million miles away from the kind of systems that they have in place. But it will undeniably be something of a shock to some smaller practices.

Any other comments?

My main concern would be that there tends to be a focus in law firms on black letter training in relation to CPD both in its existing and future state. This emphasis is often at the expense of looking at other important areas of training such as management development. For example, in the Training for Tomorrow consultation, it talks about compliance officers for legal practice and those having responsibility for trainees who might need specific guidance and direction. My view is that anybody in any management role has a significant impact on the firm and the firm's business potential. A recognition of that is important—and yet that really does not come across in the consultation.

Beth Pipe, freelance learning and development consultant (Interviewed by Jon Robins).

The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.

First published on Lexis®PSL.


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