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SRA Competence Framework

October 31st 2016 morphed gently into November the 1st, and the Solicitors Profession said its farewells and goodbyes to the CPD scheme. For those of us old enough to remember the Millennium and its foretelling of the doom of Humanity, this had been billed by some organisations in the same way, and the expectation on November 1st was that life in the solicitors profession would cease as we know it.

Well, here we are less than a month later, and things haven’t really changed since then.

So, now that the new regime is upon us, what should firms be doing differently?

Well, the first thing that we’d suggest is to “reset” the timing of all Performance Development Reviews (or appraisals). November is now a more logical time to be carrying these out where individual solicitors can reflect on the past year, engage in some meaningful dialogue with their line managers which will help them understand potential performance gaps that they can focus on gaining some learning for, which will make them more competent.

It is key during this process to ensure that all useful “inputs” are considered for this “reflection.” Such inputs would include file review performance, and whether there are regular corrective actions required on the solicitor’s files, complaints and/or indemnity notifications for them, and whether there are any indications of weaknesses from client surveys that could affect the individual’s performance.

Another useful exercise is to complete a personal SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). This should be done by the individual solicitor in conjunction with reading the SRA Competence Statement. When assessing individual performance to identify elements of the SWOT, the individual should consider whether they are competent for all likely work types in the range that they provide, how often they carry them out, and what level of complexity they carry. Remember to consider the following two definitions;

Competence - "the ability to perform the roles and tasks required by one's job to the expected standard" (Eraut & du Boulay, 2001)

“an individual who can consistently perform work activities to the standards required in employment over a range of contexts or conditions [real working environment]” (Fletcher, 1997)

Finally, it is important to remember the SRA statements from their “Training for Tomorrow” consultation, the precursor to the introduction of the Competence Framework;

“Our regulatory system extends to everyone employed in our regulated entities, not just to those with the qualification of solicitor. “

“All regulated entities are required by our Code of Conduct to train individuals working in their organisation to maintain a level of competence appropriate to their work and level of responsibility.”

So firms should remember they cannot ignore their support staff, however, given the variation in size of a firm, then prioritisation can be given to solicitors first to ensure that the firm’s obligations under the new competence regime are met.