The Solicitors Regulation Authority says it will be ‘looking into the detail’ of a CPD provider’s email urging solicitors to complete ‘mandatory’ self-assessment.
Liverpool-based Datalaw emailed firms last week saying they had 14 days left to complete their first quarter self-assessment, referencing the SRA’s continuing competency scheme, despite the fact that it no longer requires solicitors to count CPD hours.
The Gazette understands that the regulator has received queries from firms asking if the scheme has compulsory elements they were not aware of.
Datalaw says its e-shot was simply reminding customers that they were required to undertake the company’s own learning schemes in order to see off any suggestion they had not done enough. It stressed that the email never said the mandatory self-assessment was an SRA requirement.
An SRA spokesperson said any suggestion that a mandatory quarterly assessment is required would be wrong and contrary to its new approach. ‘We recognise each firm and solicitor is different,' he added. 'It is for them to make the call on how often in a year they should assess their continuing professional development.
‘We are concerned about any misrepresentation of our rules and will be looking into the detail.’
Datalaw says it spent two years developing an online platform which exactly mirrors SRA recommendations for practitioners to create their own training plan. Director Charles Peter said the company decided that regular reviews of continuing competency were important for solicitors to show the regulator they were still committed.
He added: ‘Solicitors are busy people and all too often can forget to do what they sometimes regard as unnecessary. During our research and development process many solicitors asked us to include such a reminder system. This was the purpose of the email, to remind people that their quarterly review was imminent and for those who haven’t joined Datalaw yet, how they could do so.’
Peter said the SRA could do more to help solicitors understand guidance on continuing competence and to ensure they know exactly what is necessary.
‘There is some confusion in the profession which really does need to be addressed as soon as possible.’
As of November 2016 solicitors were no longer required to count CPD hours and were instead asked to ‘reflect on the quality of your practice and identify any learning and development needs’.
Online tools are available but the SRA stresses these are not mandatory and serve only as guides. Solicitors do still need to make an annual declaration which says they have reflected on their practice and addressed any learning and development needs.