Legal Services Board of England and Wales research shows public support for ongoing competence checks

Newly commissioned research by the Legal Service Board of England and Wales (LSB) as part of their wider work on ongoing competence, has demonstrated that the public places high importance on lawyers having up to date knowledge and skills, and the right attributes to provide high-quality services. The report also showed that there was a gap between public expectation and the current regulatory requirements around ongoing competence.

The survey was made up of 1,005 respondents in England and Wales and found that:

  • 55% of respondents assumed that lawyers face regular skills checks, in a similar manner to doctors, pilots or teachers
  • 95% thought that lawyers should have to demonstrate that they remain competent throughout their careers
  • 87% thought that regulators should do more to reduce the risk of lack of competence
  • 88% thought there should be more consistency in competence requirements across the profession, as there are for other regulated professions

Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, said:

“This research shows that there is a gap between what the public expect when it comes to lawyers’ competence and what checks are currently in place. We will be developing our thinking on what more needs to be done in this area to build public confidence, and engaging widely on our emerging thoughts.”

Read more about the research here. 

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Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten launches a self-assessment tool for lawyer CPD

The Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten (NOvA) has launched a self-assessment tool designed to assist lawyers with CPD. The online platform is entirely voluntary, to use, and allows lawyers to assess their own progress on metrics of expertise, interaction and attitude. This allows them to reflect on their own professional development, and to identify areas of improvement.

Lawyers who complete the assessment will receive one CPD point, with the assessment estimated to take around an hour. The digital assessment fits into NOvA’s wider digital development, including the DillemAp an ap which raises various ethical questions to practitioners, creating a forum for discussion around ethics and practice.

Theda Boersema , member of the general council said: “How do you stand in your work, what are your motives, where are the pitfalls and how can you continue to improve yourself? Within an hour, the self-assessment will give you insightful insight into this. It is not a test, there is no right or wrong. It is mainly intended to increase your ethical awareness and sharpen your craftsmanship. ”

Read more about the tool here, or view the tool here.

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Victoria Legal Services Board recommends significant changes to CPD

On the 25th November, the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB) released the findings of an independent review into Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in Victoria. The review was conducted by independent consultant Chris Humphreys and involved interviews with over 170 organisation and individuals about how the system in Victoria could be improved, enabling the legal profession to have meaningful, relevant and accessible learning opportunities that enrich the quality of legal services provided to the Victorian community.

The review concluded that while the CPD system is not broken, it needs improvement to reflect more contemporary approaches to adult learning and professional development. Saying “The reverence for knowledge espoused, and genuinely felt, by many in the profession focuses on the acquisition of knowledge about the content of the law. While this focus is valuable, it is insufficient to equip a lawyer with the skills needed to apply the law, to conduct a business, to advise clients or employers, to make difficult ethical choices. Comprehensive learning is not embraced as an integral part of a practice in which a lawyer reflects systematically on their strengths and weaknesses and how to become a more effective lawyer”

A key recommendation of the report was the development of a competency framework for lawyers, which gives greater weight to skills needed for contemporary legal practice and to shift the focus of activity from compliance to genuine learning and development.

The report, ‘Getting the Point? Review of Continuing Professional Development for Victorian Lawyers’ provides 28 recommendations for change, including:

  • Development of a competency framework that describes the core skills for practising lawyers, differentiated by levels of experience and expertise
  • Production of resources for lawyers that provide information, guidance and templates about CPD activities, including reflective practise and planning
  • Working with the Law Institute, Victorian Bar and CPD providers to identify ways in which more effective, customised activities can be designed and delivered
  • Raising the profile and strengthening the resources available for CPD in key areas such as technology and the law, sexual harassment, family violence, diversity and inclusion, and health and wellbeing
  • Improving the approach to CPD Ethics programs
  • Developing a more active approach to identifying risk and linking CPD programs to identified risks
  • Using the CPD audit process to gather better information about risk and lawyers’ use of CPD
  • Establishing a CPD Steering Committee with representatives from the Law Institute, Victorian Bar, lawyers not in private practice, and academic or other experts to implement the review’s recommendations, in consultation with other stakeholders
  • Strengthening and re-orienting the profession’s culture of learning through leadership and communication of the new approaches.

There are also some recommendations aimed at clarifying and broadening the CPD topics and options available for those lawyers working in the corporate, government and community sector.

Fiona McLeay, Legal Services Board CEO and Commissioner said: “We are grateful to Chris for the high levels of engagement generated and fostered with our stakeholders and the legal profession and for the considered and thoughtful manner in which the review was conducted. We thank everyone who contributed to the review and took the time to share their experiences and views, and to engage in the conversation. We will now review the recommendations and develop a regulatory response for discussion in early 2021” Ms McLeay said.

See the VLSB’s statement, or read the full report

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Catherine Marienau on experiential learning and CLE

2Civility, the communications arm of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, has released a new video in its series on reimagining the law. The video features an interview with Catherine Marienau, Professor Emerita at DePaul University, discussing experiential learning and its use in CLE, particularly with regard to online learning.

Watch the video. 

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Victoria Legal Services Board and Commissioner consultation on CPD

The Victoria Legal Services Board and Commissioner is currently accepting thoughts for their ongoing review on CPD in the state. The review is keen to hear from a broad range of lawyers and other stakeholders. The review is hoping to hear opinions on topics such as the levels CPD is aimed at, the role of regulators in CPD, effective learning styles, and topics that should be covered by CPD.

The Board has said “While most lawyers recognise the value of professional development in maintaining and enhancing their skills, there is concern that the current points-based system tends to drive a compliance-focused ‘box ticking’ exercise, rather than a more considered pursuit of learning and development suited to an individual lawyer’s particular needs.  We are also seeking to be more efficient, risk-based and outcomes-focused in our regulation of CPD compliance.”

See an executive summary of the issues being covered, or see the full issues paper.

Also see the consultation response, until 3 July.

Also see the Board’s comments.

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LSB extends call for evidence on ongoing competence

The deadline for the LSB’s consultation on ongoing competence has been extended to the 26th June.

The call has been extended due to the ongoing pressure on respondents, and the need to divert resources, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The LSB has said: “We are asking respondents to consider four themes: 

  • Defining competence and competence assurance 
  • Consumer expectations of competence 
  • Competence assurance in the legal services sector 
  • Competence assurance in other sectors 

We want to hear from people and organisations both within and beyond the legal services sector with any relevant information on existing competence assurance practices and whether these practices protect the public and promote consumer interests. The insights will help guide our thinking on whether a different approach is needed.”

Further information is agvailable on the LSB site.

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LSB launches consultation on ongoing professional competence in the legal services sector

The Legal Services Board has launched a consultation on “ongoing professional competence in the legal services sector”. The aim of the consultation is to review how regulators ensure that the legal professionals they regulate remain competent over the course of their careers.

LSB Chief Executive Matthew Hill said: ‘Ensuring legal professionals remain competent throughout their careers will help increase trust in legal services and improve access to justice. We look forward to hearing from the wide range of people with an interest in this subject, including regulators, providers and representative bodies, within and beyond the legal services sector.’

The LSB is asking respondents to consider four themes:

• Defining competence and competence assurance
• Consumer expectations of competence
• Competence assurance in the legal services sector
• Competence assurance in other sectors

The LSB plans to engage widely with stakeholders during the call for evidence and is looking forward to meeting with interested parties in the coming months, and has expressed a desire to hear the views of international regulators on their views and experiences on the theme.

Full details of the consultation are on the LSB Ongoing competence: Call for evidence page

Consultation response submission deadline: 15 May 2020. 

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Event: NOBC 2020 Mid-Year Conference

12-15 February 2020
AT&T Hotel and Conference Center, Austin, Texas

The programme for this year’s Mid-Year Meeting includes: discussions on ethical enforcement in federal jurisdictions, prosecuting the prosecutor, dissemination of the NOBC’s Anti-Money Laundering Tool Kit, and utilising alternative discipline. They will also continue their conversations on the importance of lawyer health and well-being with a presentation titled “Vicarious Trauma Compassion Fatigue in Regulators” and on the impact of technology on the law with a presentation titled “Technology in the Courtroom and Your Office.”

The NOBC has said “We look forward to seeing our fellow NOBC members as we gather for the Mid-Year Meeting. The meeting promises to be the ideal setting for networking with old friends and colleagues, meeting new friends and colleagues, and benefiting from each other’s experiences.”

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BSB publishes research into barristers’ attitudes to CPD revisions

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has published a report on the impact of their revised approach to regulating barristers’ Continuing Professional Development. The report found that the general attitude towards the scheme amongst barristers was positive, with many welcoming the improved flexibility of the rules, however the report also suggested that there was some misunderstanding over the role of reflection in maintaining professional standards.

The report focuses on the CPD approach launched in 2017, which emphasised outcomes for barristers with over three years of experience, replacing the prescriptive hours focused approach.

Read the full report on the BSB site (PDF).

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Revised SRA approach to CPD is well recieved by law firms

Newly published feedback received by the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA) on continuous professional development (CPD) requirements introduced in 2016 has indicated that the changes have been well received by solicitors and law firms. The requirements, known as ‘Continuing Competence’ are available in full here and include requiring solicitors to make an annual declaration of their own training and development as part of their renewal application, allowing for greater time flexibility and more targeted development.

Feedback from firms was very positive with 40 per cent of law firms reporting that the changes have increased the amount of learning and development support offered to their solicitors, 52 per cent of firms saying that levels of learning and development have remained unchanged, and only 9 per cent reporting a reduction in the focus given to this area. SRA comments are available here, whilst the full report is available here.

 

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