Regular competence tests could be on the horizon for solicitors, as the Legal Services Board claims the current system is ‘not best serving the interests of consumers’.
The LSB’s director of policy Chris Nichols said he was worried about the lack of evidence around solicitor competence and said new regulatory proposals will be tested over the coming months.
‘It concerns me greatly that regulators’ approaches are not geared towards understanding, preventing and responding to competence issues. To me, this must surely be within their role as a regulator,’ he said.
Speaking at a Westminster Legal Policy Forum seminar on legal education, Nichols said that research has revealed strong public support for more stringent monitoring of lawyers. In a survey conducted by the LSB, for example, 79% of the public said there should be more specific rules for checking legal professionals’ competence throughout their careers.
Meanwhile, 95% said that legal professionals should have to demonstrate that they remain competent throughout their careers, and 87% agreed that regulators should do more to reduce the risk of lack of competence undermining public trust in the legal system.
Nichols said that the legal profession’s approach contrasts ‘quite starkly’ with that of other professions. ‘Doctors, pilots and teachers are all expected to proactively demonstrate their competence throughout their careers. So why not lawyers too?’
The Solicitors Regulation Authority scrapped the requirement for solicitors to complete 16 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each year in 2016. Solicitors are now asked to ‘reflect on the quality of their practice and identify any learning and development needs’.
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