The Solicitors Regulation Authority has asked a ‘small number’ of solicitors why they have refused to engage with the new light-touch system for assessing continuing competence, the regulator has revealed. But the disclosure is unlikely to assuage criticism that the regulator has abandoned responsibility for ensuring high standards by removing any obligation on solicitors to evidence what continuous professional development they have undertaken.
For the past two years the regulator has required solicitors to declare what training and development they have undertaken in the previous 12 months. The new regime replaced the old system of accumulating CPD points. But there is no requirement to produce evidence of this continued competence, and the SRA admits it has yet to take any action against a solicitor for not meeting obligations.
The regulator insists it continues to scrutinise the profession, and has followed up with individuals who have failed to make any declaration in relation to their continuing competence.
A spokesperson said: ‘If we found that a firm or individual had deliberately misled us when providing their annual declaration, we would take this matter seriously and consider what further action may be necessary. This is an issue we will continue to monitor.’
The matter was highlighted last week when the SRA announced that a survey of 500 firms showed how well they were embracing the revised approach. Around half of firms said that levels of learning and development have remained unchanged, while 40% said they had increased support. Just 9% of firms were prepared to admit to their regulator they had reduced training and development.
SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: ‘It’s good to hear that law firms are saying they keep better tabs on their training needs, and that the new approach has given them room to address skills gaps.’
Oversight regulator the Legal Services Board has pledged to review lawyers’ continuing competence.