SRA Competence: How Have You 'Reflected'?

Solicitors are urged to avoid the temptation to consider the competence statement requirement in their annual practising certificate renewal as a mere ‘tick box’ exercise.

Regardless of the length of their professional career so far, all solicitors are required, on an annual basis, to complete a statement confirming they have met the regulator’s continuing competence requirements. The declaration reads: “I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.”

The reality is, continuing competence has been under the super-regulator’s microscope for some time now. Flowing from that, the SRA promised at the start of 2023 to crack down more robustly where solicitors are failing to maintain their continuing professional competence.

You only have to work your way through SDT judgments to see that ‘incompetent’ solicitors are frequently considered a serious and continuing risk, both to the public and the reputation of the legal profession. There is no excuse for solicitors failing to keep their professional competence up-to-date. (The SRA offers plenty of resources for lawyers to refer to).

Recently, the Law Society released its own guide for solicitors on what continuing competence is and how to remain compliant. You need to be able to identify your ‘learning needs’ and (a recently recurring theme for the regulator) ‘reflecting’ on your learning needs.

At the compliance officers’ conference in late 2023, Richard Williams, the SRA’s Education and Training Policy Manager gave guidance on how to understand what reflection actually is. He said it was critical to maintaining competence to be “thinking about the challenges and quality of their practice”.

“Reflection is really important”, he added. The process of asking questions such as, what can I do differently, or where can I improve? helps identify any learning and development needs.

While the guidance from the Law Society and SRA do not represent strict rules, the regulator will be looking for evidence of good practice. How you do that is the responsibility of individual solicitors, but the wisdom of keeping appropriate records in case the SRA requests information from you cannot be overstated.

SRA Survey

The regulator has now invited solicitors to take part in a 5-minute survey which it says will help improve its continuing competence resources. The survey can be accessed here.

The Solicitors Group recognises the importance of training legal professionals on the latest continuing competence requirements. Our new 2024 SRA 4-hour webinar package is now available here.


Posted on 05.04.24