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One quarter of firms not ready for new competence regime

11th Nov 2016

A quarter of law firms were not ready for the new continuing competence regime a fortnight before its go-live date on November 1st, and only two in five had opted into it beforehand, according to an exclusive Solicitors Journal survey.

Carried out online last month, the research canvassed 250 respondents, 71.6% of whom said that their firm was ready for the new regime, a number that rose to 75.5%  for small and medium-sized firms, leaving more than a quarter who were not ready or were unable to say whether their firm would be ready by 1 November.

The findings are in sharp contrast with those relating to opt-ins. Firms had the option to choose the new regime ahead of its go-live date today, but overall only 23.6% had positively done so by October 15th.

From  November 1st, the new continuing competence regime replaces continual professional development, doing away with a minimum of 16 hours of learning and replacing it with a process requiring solicitors to reflect on their own learning and training needs, and to determine for themselves how they will address any gaps.

In line with its outcomes-focused approach, the SRA is leaving it to individual organisations and solicitors to set up adequate systems to suit their own circumstances. 65.5% of respondents said they would be responsible for ensuring compliance at individual level, with an estimated half of those doing so in conjunction with the head of department, the HR department, or the senior or managing partner.

In the main, this enablement appears to have been well received. 61.72 % of respondents said it would encourage solicitors to undertake learning and development that is more focused and relevant to their practice. 51.2% welcomed the flexibility of the new regime, whilst nearly 44.9% acknowledged it created greater personal responsibility for development.

The vast majority also took specific action to ensure compliance, whether this entailed setting up brand new systems or weaving the new requirement into the existing appraisal framework. Only 10% believed they didn’t need to do anything.