Removing the mandatory requirement for 16 hours of continuing professional development a year could devastate the legal training market as firms cut their spending, the Gazette has been told.
At least one leading provider has already ceased trading as a result of the decision.
Progressive Legal Training Ltd, one of the largest providers in the market, closed its doors last week – days after the Solicitors Regulation Authority approved plans to remove the CPD requirement from November 2016.
Chris Boddington, managing director at Boddington Law, which is handling Progressive’s affairs, said the provider decided to shut down as a direct consequence of the SRA’s plan: ‘[Progressive Legal] had already lost so much work, it decided there was no point in incurring further costs.’ The business is still solvent, he said.
In its February consultation Training for Tomorrow: a new approach to continuing competence, the SRA described the CPD regime as largely ‘tick-box’, with no real focus on quality or appropriateness. Plans to remove the 16-hour requirement await final approval from the Legal Services Board.
Several firms the Gazette contacted will review spending as a result.
Marina Garston, solicitor at insurance specialists EC3 Legal, said the firm agreed with the change as the system has not provided value for money. ‘I am all for CPD, but the way it has been conducted has given some providers a licence to print money. Solicitors were attending courses but not learning as much as they should.’
Beverley Watkins of Bristol firm Watkins said: ‘I think there should be a minimum of hours for CPD even if it is not 16, as smaller firms are likely to cut their budgets.’
Peter Ryder, independent CPD lecturer for 11 years, said CPD removal could lead to a ‘decimation of the course provider element’.
However, Central Law Training was upbeat. Managing director Mark Solon said: ‘CPD was introduced in 1985 when there was no internet – so it was a different world. This decision is about the profession growing up.’