Why you should adopt the new CPD system this April and not wait until October 2016

I have just attended a workshop at SRA for sole-practitioners on the draft proposals for dealing with continuing competence (CPD to you and me) that solicitors can opt into from 1st April this year if they don’t want to keep doing the 16 hours CPD until the old scheme ends in October 2016. Do you jump down the rabbit hole now or wait until you are pushed?

They supplied us with some confidential draft documents that it would be wrong for me to disclose. I hope I won’t be summoned to SRA and tossed from the ramparts of their HQ at The Cube in Birmingham for sharing the general thrust of their proposals with you.

Now I have to admit up front that delivering CPD training under the current training regime is my bread and butter - but I find myself like a turkey voting for Christmas on this one. To be honest what they are suggesting makes more sense, but it will be a massive change for most solicitors.

Rather than ‘getting your points in’ at the end of the year, you will need to spend a small amount of time, more frequently, thinking about what you do in your job and how good you are at it. You probably do this anyway informally at the moment - so it may just be a question of getting into a routine of making a note of those thoughts whether they were in the office or even in the shower or while driving - that’s what they call ‘reflection’ in the new jargon. Then you need to record what you did about it - what you read, what course you went on, etc. That’s it!

How you do this as a firm up to you, and you have regular pow-wows with colleagues to chew the fat over important points that arise from time to time - it’s up to you.

One thing I got from the workshop is that many solicitors are nervous of the SRA, and to be honest I don’t blame them. But here they are being all warm and friendly and giving us freedom to make our own decisions on how much training we need, and how we do it.

So how will it work, and what’s in it for you if you make the change early, this April?

We have all sat through lectures or webinars, not learning much but looking forward to a nice lunch and the chance to chat to fellow lawyers about common problems. Worse still these are often squeezed in at the end of September and October and might not be really targeting what we need to know about. That was the bad old days…

In contrast under the new regime you might decide to spend a little time every day or week in the comfort of your office or even at home, thinking about what you know and what you don’t, what you need to catch up on or new things you would like to learn.

Then YOU decide what the best way is to do that for you. It may well not be necessary to book a standard CPD course (this is me the turkey speaking), but instead (or as well as) you might to look it up on Practical Law (other brands are available) read part of text book on the subject, read an article, talk to colleagues who know about the subject, look online, etc. And - here is the crunch - that ALL counts towards showing your are competent, - whereas before if it you didn’t go on an accredited course it counted for nothing.

It may be that you spend MORE than 16 hours a year on this, and to be honest I would be amazed if you didn’t already spend a lot more than that generally reading articles, looking up the law and changes to it - the difference is that in future it all counts. It’s not about ‘hours spent’ either, it’s about learning and understanding. If you can pick up a key point quickly by reading something in 30 mins that is better than listening to a half day lecture covering stuff most of which you already know. The only difference is that you will log in a diary your thoughts and a general note about the things you researched or things you learned.

But, and here is the important thing - you need to get into a routine of doing this ‘reflection, planning and research’ AND RECORDING THAT YOU DID IT. I’m sure there will be lots of online ‘reflection on training and development diaries’ and smartphone apps provided by training companies hoping to persuade you that their courses are the way for you to demonstrate competence - watch this space. I might even make one myself!

It’s important to realise that after October 2016 just going on 16 hours a year of stand-up training or webinars might NOT be enough to demonstrate competence if you can’t show that the subjects don’t dovetail with what you need to know for your personal practice - so just doing that may be a waste of your time and money.

SRA online resources promised

There are many other ways of learning things other than formal seminars that can be better and more flexible for you - and industry and commerce realised this years ago. SRA promises toolkits, guides and videos to explain what these other options might be. These will be added to and developed over the months that follow.

There are likely to be a number of examples of case studies - worked examples of how this would all be done, perhaps, to give you confidence that you are on the right track. At the end of each year you then self-certify that you are up-to date and competent to deal with the area of work you personally handle.

A few solicitors at the workshop commented that to us lawyers all this management-speak of ‘learning objectives’ or ‘reflective learning’ didn’t mean a lot to us. Many just wanted just to be told exactly what they had to do. Though the SRA promised that there will be videos and other resources available on their website to help you translate these general ideas into actual actions, the bottom line is that it’s up to you. If SRA just told you to do X, Y, Z, then we would be back to the bad old prescriptive system.

So what do I think you should do?

Grab the opportunity with both hands! And NOT because you will save money on training - in fact that is the worst reason to do it.

One good point is you won’t have to sit through ‘free CPD seminars’ which are really just an hour’s sales pitch for a company’s products - like searches, insurance and software. YOU decide what you want to know about and how much training or updating you need to do.

But why should you embrace change?

  • Well, possibly less time out the office and saving on training costs
  • No September/ October dash for points
  • But also less complaints, happier and better advised clients
  • Less mistakes made which means
  • Less potential negligence claims
  • Perhaps in time lower insurance premiums
  • And hopefully you will sleep easier at night too…..

The end of training as we know it?

This particular turkey is hoping that there will still be a need for training courses, in the old form, as some people will prefer to do it the old way for their own reasons. But I’m only too happy to embrace the possibility of working with firms to develop new ways of making sure their staff do things right with modern interactive guides, toolkits checklists, and other online resources - see my website www.propertylaw.guru for some preliminary ideas.

Watch this space!