I do declare! Let’s make declaring “competence” to practise a source of pleasure & pride

This week solicitors and their employers will be signing off on their Declaration of Competence* for the year.  How will that feel, I wonder?  Will it be an administrative task or pleasure to reflect on a year of continuous learning?  If we take technical expertise as given, what would be on a solicitor’s wish list of “competence”?  At the end of the year, looking back, what is it that solicitors would like to be able to say they enjoyed learning to do differently at work?

That word “enjoyed” is important.  I’m interested in people engaging with learning and enjoying the possibilities that brings.  There are so many brilliant lawyers capable of so much in terms of client service and commitment to the Rule of Law.  What excites me is bringing capability and possibility together; that’s when learning rocks!

There are some smart individuals and some big firms doing really interesting things, particularly around the use of technology in delivering legal services.  Lots of people want to be involved in this story and are unsure of where to start.  Unfortunately, what can happen is a debilitating sense of uncertainty which makes the gap between capability and what feels possible widen, rather than shrink.

 

In that situation we end up with sameness; same people, same practice.  If that is what everyone is comfortable with and feels is a long-term option, then that’s fine.  The difficult question is; will clients think its fine?  If they are navigating changing and uncertain times, if they are working on their own capability and creating commercial possibilities, might they expect their legal advisers not only to do the same, but to help them meet their challenges?  Could lawyers be leading the way?  I can’t see why not, if their business purpose is to serve client need.  And that’s where the wish list of competencies can play powerful role.

Competencies are a regulatory requirement.  More importantly they are a way of describing what “good” looks like in terms of a range of different capabilities.  Crucially, you can only define “good” in relation to your purpose.  Not everyone has to be competent at everything.  There is discretion.

Perhaps it is more useful to think of it as a declaration that each individual is equipped to play their part and make their contribution to the future of the business.  So what do you wish for?

*What is the “Declaration of Competence”?

The Declaration provides affirmation jointly by the solicitor and their employer to state that each solicitor has learned continuously throughout the year in order that they may provide a “proper standard of service”.  The declaration is:

“I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.”

In turn, the SRA will issue them a Practising Certificate.  Only if there is an allegation of incompetence will the regulator seek to turn over the stone marked “learning” and see what evidence of lies there.

http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/cpd/tool-kit/resources/annual-declaration.page

 

 

KEY MESSAGES ABOUT CPD FROM LETR FINAL REPORT: RE-ACCREDITATION REJECTED

The LETR final report has been published.  You can access it at http://ow.ly/moZtW  Para 6.95 on page 253 gives a good summary of some of the discussion on cpd.

Its a biggy!  371 pages.  Interestingly the document uses the abbreviation LSET, “Legal Services Education & Training”.  A flexible term for flexible times!

Here are some of the key messages about cpd and re-accreditation:

1.  The case for a re-accreditation as a pre-requisite for on-going practice in the legal professions has been rejected as “not proven” at the current time.  Although it makes the point that re-accreditation has led to higher quality care in the medical professions, it concedes that it would be too onerous for some, most obviously sole practitioners.  (See 4 below.)  An improved cpd scheme is preferred.

 

2.  Continuing professional development needs to be reformed.  The legal sector is behind other professions in terms of best practice.  There needs to be a move away from cpd as a purely a way of accruing knowledge; it needs to be about reflection and skills too in order to develop effective practice.  A “cyclical” approach of planning, implementation and reflection needs to be the norm (para 6.95).

 

3.  Core subjects “need” to be offered via cpd including equality & diversity training, ethics & governance and management skills.  Regulators need to set out a plan for “assuring competence & ethical conduct of legal practitioners in a rapidly changing legal market”.

 

4.  Accreditation of specialist areas of practice should be improved and should form part of a reformed approach to cpd.

 

5.  Cpd should be liberalised to recognise “intentional, meaningful learning”.  This should include learning in the work place, but this would need to be evidenced and should go alongside an accredited hours system.

 

6.  Entity-based regulation of cpd is favoured (activity-based regulation is not).  An outcomes focussed approach is advocated; firms should be in a position to demonstrate that learning is being used to achieve set goals, e.g. in equality and diversity.

 

7.  Regulators should provide online reporting services for cpd plans and learning logs.

 

To discuss the implications of the LETR for your business or any other professional development matter call Nicola on 07799 237479 or email Nicola@athenaprofessional.co.uk

 

Athena Professional; using professional development to help businesses realise the value of people

The case for joined up L&D strategy is clearly made out

The case for joined up L&D strategy is clearly made out in the LETR final report.

The value of cpd

The Legal Education & Training Review report recognises the need for cpd to provide “intentional, meaningful learning”, not merely a points or hours-based system which is open to abuse.  Clearly it is in the interest of practices to know how their regulated staff are using their cpd and to ensure it dovetails with business need.  These are the sorts of things that get those expensive business plans implemented.  If you have not got an joined up L&D strategy I’d be happy to help.

Good learning practices serve business

The lessons learned from the Work Based Learning (“WBL”) pilot trainee programme are well made; ultimately participants found they had achieved higher levels of learning and were better able to evidence their achievements than their colleagues with traditional traineeships.  Seasoned practitioners would do well to think-on about this.  The skills involved in making WBL work will serve your business; it supports collaborative working, communication, cross-selling… all that good stuff that needs a bit of planning and some confidence in order to gain momentum .

Learning “every day”

The use of WBL is endorsed and its relevance post-qualification is highlighted.  Clearly, when legal professionals learn at their desks every day, there should be mechanisms for capturing and formalising that learning.  I have done a lot of work on WBL, so if you want to talk about this, L&D strategy or any other professional development matter, do call me on 07799 237479 or email nicola@athenaprofessional.co.uk

Athena Professional helps business realise the value of their people.