Regulators have been urged not to necessarily think ‘more is better’ when they assess what ongoing training qualified lawyers should do in their careers.
The Legal Services Board today published a 68-report looking at international approaches to ongoing competence as it continues to plan what requirements should be made of solicitors and other legal professionals.
The oversight regulator has already indicated that lawyers are likely to face new CPD demands after finding a ‘strong rationale’ for reform of the current system. Solicitors are not currently required to collect a certain number of CPD hours each year but are instead asked by the SRA to make an annual commitment to finding and acting on development needs.
The new report, which looked at a number of different jurisdictions across the world, concluded there was greater scope of self-assessment and tailoring ongoing competence based on the experience and status of individuals.
It stressed that CPD, in some form or other, is likely to remain at the heart of what the LSB decides, but should not be expected to act as a ‘sole guarantor’ of a practitioner’s continuing competence.
Regulators such as the SRA could publish clearer ongoing competence schemes to set out expectations, but the report cautioned against simply loading on greater demands of lawyers.
‘Attention should be paid throughout to the cost-benefit ratio of any measures taken,’ said the report.
‘In too many jurisdictions, the introduction of more regulatory measures and additional requirements and hours are seen as somehow ‘better’.’
The report stated that although hours-based CPD remains the main tool used around the world to promote lawyer competence, such schemes are ‘at best, blunt instruments’. The report pushed the need for greater self-assessment, mentoring and coaching, specialist certifications and accreditation. Peer review, for example used in the Netherlands, is another suggestion for increasing knowledge and expertise.
Margie McCrone, regulatory policy manager for the LSB, said consumers should be able to trust that legal professionals have the necessary and up to date skills, knowledge and attributes to provide quality legal services.
She noted that in foreign jurisdictions there is increasing attention to the regulation of lawyers beyond the point of their qualification. This lack of in-practice regulation was ‘out of step’ with consumer expectations of competence and the robust checks they assume are in place already. Further details about the LSB plans are expected after the summer.