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Training For Competence

The SRA's announcement on 21st of May 2014 that "a new approach to ensure solicitors remain competent throughout their working lives while removing the necessity for them to complete a compulsory 16 hours' training per year" has certainly provoked a mixed reaction from the profession. There are those that presage it as an inevitable failure at firms where training is seen simply as an expense to be managed for as little cost as possible; there are those that see it as the curtailment of their privileges to do some shopping in Manchester and London while attending training courses, and there are those with a genuine worry that solicitors competence will be eroded year on year with no mechanism to guarantee at least a minimum of 16 hours training per year.

So is it none of these, or all of the above?

It would seem that it could be all of this and more, depending on the approach of firms and the guidance to be issued by the SRA on the subject in 2015, when they plan to issue a "Competence Statement" (indicating what a competent solicitor should look like).

There might possibly be a sneak preview of the shape of things to come when the Law Society launches the latest version of its Lexcel standard in October of this year, if they have been privy to the SRA plans, but it is a big if; recent interactions between the two organisations have been a little torrid around the publication of Practice Notes.

Firms that are concerned about this can do some research in advance however. "Competence Frameworks" have existed in other industries and organisations for many years, and don't just draw a line at "skilled resources" - other industries' equivalent of fee earners. No, other organisations take pains to ensure that all of their resources receive appropriate training, something that isn't always considered when it comes to non-fee earning or support staff in legal firms.

So what is a "Competence Framework?"

It is a system of identified skills and competencies needed for an individual to perform optimally at their day to day tasks, so in the case of legal firms, that would mean all personnel, a consideration that can only become more important with time as technology and competition drive firms to be more innovative in the way they work or face going out of business. A Competence Framework is a structure that sets out and defines each individual competency (such as problem-solving or people management) required by individuals working in an organisation or part of an organisation.

At cpm21 we have been using defined competency frameworks with our clients since our inception, and they have evolved over time in line with the rapid changes that the legal profession has been subject to. When the SRA introduce their version of a Competence Framework, we will be able to support our clients to ensure their fee earners and personnel have the necessary training to enable them to meet all the competencies required to keep them effective in their role.