Oversight regulators have given their strongest indication yet that solicitors could face greater obligations to prove their ongoing competence.

The Legal Services Board confirmed in December that that it would look at the issue of continuing competence for qualified lawyers as part of its business plan for 2019/20.

Now chief executive Neil Buckley, who steps down from his post later this year, has revealed that other professions are being studied to find what requirements can be passported across to the legal sector. 

Neil buckley

Neil Buckley

Speaking at the NatWest legal conference in London today, Buckley said the issue was how legal professionals could show their 'technical quality' as well as providing a good service.

'The question for us is whether more needs to be done, without creating an unnecessary burden on you, to ensure throughout the period that you are qualified that consumers continue to receive the highest quality service and have assurance they are receiving it from a competent provider,' said Buckley, who stressed that no decisions had been taken on what was best for the legal profession.

'We all know CPD is critical but the way it is delivered at this moment in time doesn’t always ensure the legal profession is changing and adapting and that we can all have confidence in the technical quality.'

Buckley cited the medical profession in particular as one where regulatory requirements have changed with the evolving nature of the job, and where new methods for proving competence have been pioneered. 

This has included creating a 'reflective discussion' when going through the revalidation process where medics can show what technical knowledge they have acquired in the past year. 

Buckley added: 'Every year a GP has to get feedback from patients they have treated in the year and reflect on what that says and provide a report about concerns that have been raised in that feedback. That is the type of modern system they have in other professions.'

The General Medical Council, which regulates general practitioners, requires them to reflect on what they have learnt through CPD and record any impact (or expected future impact) on their performance and practice. This should be informed by 'discussion with others and by specific evidence, such as data from audit, complaints and compliments, significant events, information about service improvements, results of workplace-based assessments and feedback from patients and colleagues'.