The current system of continuing professional development (CPD) is ‘failing and open to abuse’, the Legal Services Consumer Panel said today.

In response to the Solicitors Regulation Authority's consultation on proposed changes to CPD, the panel says it welcomes the regulator’s wish to take a new approach to improve standards. But it said enforcement action and periodic re-accreditation are equally important in protecting consumers. 

In February the regulator suggested an overhaul of CPD in which it said the regime is largely ‘tick-box’ with no real focus on the quality or appropriateness of the professional development undertaken.

The SRA’s preferred option is to provide non-mandatory guidance. 

The second option is a requirement on solicitors to plan and reflect on their development, which they would have to document in an annual cycle. Its third option was to retain a minimum hours scheme with some modifications. 

The consumer panel says it has serious concerns about the SRA’s preferred option, in relation to individual accountability and monitoring the quality of work. The panel said it favours the second option as it requires solicitors to 'show evidence of their planning, recording and reflecting on their development activity'.

The panel says it does not believe option three would achieve the desired results as it would have the effect of continuing a discredited model ‘out of step with good practice’.

In its response the panel also criticised the consultation for failing to discuss sanctions on individuals and entities for not carrying out adequate CPD.

The consultation closes tomorrow.