Continuing Competency: Increased Bureaucracy Is Imminent

The regulator continues to beat the continuing competence drum, but while it’s tempting to ignore its beat – it’s important to understand your obligations to reduce the risk of intervention.

The latest pounding of the drum came at this year’s SRA compliance conference where the regulator emphasised the need for firms to ensure effective systems and controls are in place.

There was also a warning – though the SRA policy manager Richard Williams preferred to frame it in a less alarmist fashion – that proactive inspections will be rolled out.

He reminded delegates of the importance the SRA places on solicitors maintaining their competence; and for firms to have systems and controls in place to ensure those they employ are competent.

Reflection and training records

The need for ‘reflection’ by solicitors appears to be an ongoing issue for the SRA. Williams stressed that reflection should be a regular and ongoing exercise - and while there is no prescriptive requirement to keep a training record, it is important (and good business practice) to keep one maintained.

It also helps demonstrate to the SRA they are taking those steps and putting them into practice.

The regulator had found issues with training records that they had seen – that they amounted to a list of training undertaken rather than the ‘why’; there was little evidence of why the individual solicitor thought about what they needed to do. Williams said that in some cases, the training undertaking did not even appear to relate to the solicitor’s area of practice.

Latest data

So what of the wider trends observed by the SRA? Williams highlighted two particular issues arising out of an analysis of around 42,000 reports (received for the period 2019-2023).

First, there were more reports in relation to probate services, conveyancing and immigration – which means that solicitors in those practice areas should be particularly keen to keep a training record of their continuing competency and training.

Second, the regulator said it found a “lack of awareness” of solicitors’ professional obligations and practice risks, as well as ineffective supervision arrangements. Williams emphasised that good effective supervision is a regulatory requirement; it helps manage the risks and is integral to the process of reflection.

A good supervision process helps individuals to have a different view of their work and thus identifying potential learning and development issues. Firms were urged to consider the supervision arrangements they currently have in place.


‘Reflection’ is a theme the regulator has repeatedly raised in recent times. But solicitors are apparently still finding it “very difficult to make time to actually reflect” (though Williams acknowledged this was unsurprising given the time constraints on practitioners). He urged solicitors to “create a little bit of space” to reflect on “where am I and how am I doing?” – but this does not have to take the form of a particular structure.

What’s next?

Firms should be prepared potentially to hear directly from the SRA following a future competency report. It is about to start undertaking far more proactive targeted activity. So if it receives a report, the regulator may make contact with the firm and ask it whether the regulator should be worried; and if so, the firm will be required to confirm it has done something about it.

It will also undertake fact-finding inspections to see what systems and controls firms have in place; and will also start to undertake training record reviews.

The coming year will see the continuing roll out of a tighter continuing competency regime. Whatever your views on the additional burden on solicitors, firms and individual solicitors need to prepare now to avoid attracting unwelcome regulatory attention.

To help support your continuing competency, we have created the SRA Webinar Bundle- a 4 x 1 hour webinar package designed to help ensure your skills are up to date and in line with SRA standards. View our SRA Webinar Bundle here.


Posted on 01.12.23