Announcements from the SRA earlier this year confirm that the regulator will take a more proactive and robust approach to assessing continuing competence. From this summer, it will publish an annual report with a general assessment of the profession’s competence and highlight areas where standards fall short.
To collect this data, firms will need to provide information on first-tier complaints and professional indemnity insurance claims, and the regulator will conduct spot checks, audits, and file reviews. This review process may become more intrusive as the SRA seeks evidence of supervision, quality checks, and training record.
2. Annual Assessment Reports – Competence Statements
The findings of the first annual assessment will influence the work of the regulator and whether it focuses on specific types of practice. Competence in particular areas such as asylum, criminal advocacy and personal injury is likely to come under scrutiny, while the regulator also intends to publish a report on in-house solicitors this year.
Introducing the new approach, SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: ‘We expect the profession to deliver a high standard of service to those who need their help. That means we must make sure that solicitors and the employees of firms we regulate have up-to-date skills, knowledge and behaviours.
‘During 2023, we will further improve how we identify solicitors and firms who are not meeting our expectations and work with individual solicitors and firms where we have competence concerns. We will take enforcement action where necessary to protect consumers where standards fall short.’
Considering the upcoming changes, which makes up part a more stringent approach across a broad range of updated expectations, firms are urged to take their responsibilities seriously, dedicating adequate resources to ensuring they meet their regulatory obligations.
3. What is the SRA’s continuing competence?
The updated SRA continuing competence requirements were introduced in 2016 as a replacement for the old system of continuing professional development (CPD). Under the old CPD system, solicitors were required to complete a set number of hours of training each year. However, the SRA found that this system was not effective in measuring continuing competence.
The new SRA continuing competence regime is based on the principle that solicitors should reflect on their practice and identify areas where they need to improve their skills and knowledge. The process requires solicitors to undertake regular reflection and self-assessment, and to create a learning and development plan that addresses their individual needs. Furthermore, all regulated firms must make sure that their managers and employees are competent to carry out their role. – read our previous blog: Continuing Competence and Ensuring Compliance
To meet the continuing competence obligations the regulator expects solicitors to:
- Reflect – regularly consider the quality of their practice.
- Identify – through reflection, identify their learning and development needs.
- Plan and address – regularly update a plan on how they’ll address their learning and development needs.
- Record – keep an up-to-date record of their learning and development activity.
- Evaluate – think about the effectiveness of their learning and development.
Find out more about these steps and how to complete them:
5. Training and Compliance Solutions
At The Strategic Partner, we have recently seen an increase in various requests from the SRA to evidence records of training, risk and compliance audits, fee transparency on websites, and up to date policies and procedures.
Our goal is to ensure the firms we work with have, and retain a compliant structure enabling the firms, their managers, and owners to focus on the running of their business and servicing their clients.
Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to risk and compliance and a pro-active response will not only keep the regulator from your door but will also help manage costs.
If you believe your firm may be at risk or you simply wish to confirm your firm is achieving the required standard, at The Strategic Partner, we offer a range of solutions which include: –
- Review – A review of the firm’s approach to regulation and compliance to include AML procedures. The output of which provides the firm with a written gap analysis and solutions to remedy any issues.
- Regulation 21 AML 2017 Independent Audit – A review of the firm’s approach to regulation and compliance to include AML procedures with the audit meeting the requirements of Regulation 21 of the AML 2017. The output of which provides the firm with a written gap analysis and solutions to remedy any issues that arise and ensure the firm is compliant, find out more
- Training– Our typical AML Training includes:
- AML Training for ALL staff to meet the firm’s obligation to provide annual training.
- 1-2-1 training for the MLRO and MLCO on their obligations and requirements.
- Practical training for those involved in client onboarding to ensure their ID and AML checks are correctly completed.
- File Reviews/Auditing – At TSP, we engage with firms undertaking file reviews where we consider your procedure, staff, systems, and files to ensure the procedures are up to the required standard and being implemented at case level with a report of the outcome.
- Solutions – Implementation of robust solutions to ensure the firm achieves compliance and then maintains compliance through the provision of ongoing support and assistance:–
Our standard compliance services include monitoring of continued competence for all qualified staff and other firm staff members if required.
4. Complaint Management
The Complaint Management Service is designed to provide firms with an expert solution that operates impartially and independently, but always in the best interests of the firm and its clients. Our service covers the initial intimation of a complaint, the investigation and liaison with the client through to the final resolution, including:
- Implementing a complaint policy, including guidance to staff on action to take when receiving a complaint and reporting requirements
- Maintenance of a complaint register
- Management of the complaint register
- Handling and management of complaints, either directly from the client or via the Legal Ombudsman
- Training provided to staff on complaint avoidance
- Training provided to managers on complaint management
- Reporting on complaints as part of the firm’s compliance structure
Our Complaint Management Service provides firms with an alternative solution to the need to respond to, manage and control complaints internally, freeing up the Complaints Partner whilst still maintaining control, and ensures there is an impartial approach that minimises impact on the firm. – download our Complaint Management Service brochure for more information. Complaint Management Services
6. About The Strategic Partner
The Strategic Partner is a law firm knowledge hub. We work with law firms and professional indemnity insurers, advising and guiding on compliance and risk management techniques to assist and reduce instances of claims or regulatory breaches.
We offer a range of services and consultancy tailored to the Legal sector. We have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in the overall management of law firms and work with them to achieve profitability, stability, and efficiency. We aim to become a valued and respected partner to our member law firms, consistently providing high-quality services and solutions.