SRA changes to learning and development

A guide for In-house Lawyers to Professional Development following changes to the training requirements by the SRA as at April 2015

Brief overview of the changes instituted by the SRA

There is no longer a need to commit to a specific number of training hours (16 hours) or accredited training (the S.R.A. no longer accredit training). Currently there is a voluntary system in place until November 2016 when it will become compulsory.

Solicitors will now have full responsibility to undertake training and development to ensure that they comply with Principle 5 of the Code of Conduct, namely that they are able to deliver a proper standard of service.

To assist solicitors, the SRA Board on the 11th march 2015 approved the publication of a competence statement – http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/policy/training-for-tomorrow/work-streams.page#Collection_1

The SRA have given competence statements in the following four areas:

  1. Ethics, professionalism and judgement
  2. Technical legal practice
  3. Managing themselves and their own work
  4. Working with other people

There are also six levels within the competencies as follows:

  1. Functioning knowledge
  2. Standard of work
  3. Autonomy
  4. Complexity
  5. Perception of context
  6. Innovation and originality

Further details are available on the S.R.A. website. The remainder of this guide will provide a toolkit to assist in-house solicitors to comply. Please note it is your responsibility to comply with these changes and this guide is to assist you but not take the place of your responsibility.

A Self Assessment Process

  1. Under the new policy, there needs to be some systems in place where the lawyers can self assess their skills, development needs, aspirations, and potential. The first starting place is to decide what are your personal and management goals for your current position and potential roles in the future.
  1. Once you have a clear idea of where you want to go then you can progress to review what development activities you may need over the coming year in a number of areas set out in Appendix One.
  1. If it is not clear to you what your strengths and areas for improvement are then you may prefer the Self Assessment Questionnaire in Appendix Two. Don’t forget to marry this up with any development plan used by your organisation.
  1. Once you have documented your requirements then you will now need to check out the four competencies and the requisite levels set out in www by the S.R.A. to ensure that your development plan has no gaps.
  1. I have set out in Appendix Three a simple table format for you to review the four S.R.A. competencies to establish the ones which require attention and insertion in your development plan. This can be undertaken with a facilitator
  1. Agree the development objectives and measures, which not only fulfil the S.R.A. requirements but also fit with your role requirements for your employer. Normally your organisation needs to set the vision and goals for the context for the development objectives and measures so there maybe cross overs in terms of your personal development. In any event, these must also be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Timely i.e. S.M.A.R.T. The organisation must be clear as to what skills, knowledge and behaviour it is that makes it successful and wants its lawyers to emulate. In our (myself and Richard Tapp) book the In-house Toolkit, published by the Law Society, there is a generic set of competencies for in-house counsel together with Carillion’s own corporate approach for their legal team.
  1. Select the activities which will meet the development objectives e.g. on the job development versus off the job development. In Appendix Four there is a list of these to choose from, and in Appendix Five you will find a Learning Log to track the effectiveness of the development activities you undertake.
  1. Undertake and evaluate the development. If you are a sole in-houser it may be worthwhile having a regular meeting with a coach or mentor to obtain an objective perspective on your progress.
  1. With any change programme and in particular any drive or activity to change behaviour must reward the change in a meaningful way. This will clearly depend on your organisation, and you must be able to demonstrate the benefits of this development to your employer.

N.B. The documents referred to within this guide can be used as evidence to support your compliance with Principle 5 of the Code of Conduct and are available on request (on a no obligation basis) from ann@managingexternallegalresoruces.co.uk. These are not included with this post, as the word press post system does not process table documents in a meaningful format.

So what else can you do?

 To comply with parts A C & D of the SRA Competence Statement:

  • Read my books (which I wrote with Richard Tapp), – Managing External Legal Resources and The In-house Toolkit. The latter is published by the Law Society and we have negotiated a 10% discount – please quote reference IHT14
  • Attend a management course. Both the Essential Business Management Skills for In-house lawyers (aimed at junior lawyers) and Leading and Managing an In-house Legal Department will comply with parts A C & D You can find details of these one day workshops at bpp.com.
  • Form a working group as to how you and your team can best comply with the requirements. To support you in that process I offer Consultancy Package that includes a focussed report and how it applies to you.
  • If you are just looking for support to get you started coaching by the hour is available. Contact me for a no obligation discussion on your individual needs.

For further details or a no obligation discussion about the application of this guide to your circumstances or any other training needs you may have – my contact details are: ann@managingexternallegalresources.co.uk and 07921540039.

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