LSB’s draft statement of policy on ongoing competence – Law Society response
The Legal Services Board (LSB) is seeking feedback on its proposed draft statement of policy on ongoing competence.
It proposes to use the policy statement to advance the regulatory objectives, and to discharge its regulatory oversight function under the regulatory performance assessment framework.
The draft statement of policy sets out that regulators:
- must set up a framework for assessing competence and preventing and addressing issues, starting with setting a standard of competence through a competence statement
- note that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) already has the statement of solicitor competence which underpins entry to the profession through the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE), and should be used in line with its continuing competence system – however, the LSB’s view is that it does not do enough with this post-qualification
- must regularly assess and understand the levels of competence within their regulated profession, and identify areas where competence needs to be improved
- must make appropriate interventions to ensure standards of competence are maintained across the profession
- must take suitable remedial action where standards are not met
- will have 18 months from the publication of the policy statement to implement changes
We welcome the focus this puts on ongoing competence and standards, and have a vested interest in maintaining and promoting high standards of competence across the profession.
We note the following in more detail in our response:
- the LSB has not demonstrated that there are significant issues with the competence of legal professionals, simply that there is a lack of information collected by regulators presenting assurance of any competence
- the requirement for regulators to collect better information about competence to assure themselves that standards are being met is right and appropriate
- we would support some form of mandatory training in set areas (such as equality, diversity and inclusion; ethics; IT/tech; and anti-money laundering), but the specifics should be determined by the individual who will know best what training they require
- we would also support further measures where evidence and risk-based decisions suggest this is necessary
- some of the measures outlined in the consultation (reaccreditation/ revalidation, competence assessments, observations and examinations) would likely be burdensome in terms of time and costs and seem unnecessary right now for the profession – however some accreditations or additional measures would be useful in high-risk areas, as determined by the regulators through an evidence and risk-based approach
- 18 months is an optimistic timescale; instead of a set timetable it would be more appropriate for regulators to determine, in consultation with the LSB, how long their programmes of work will take
What this means for solicitors
Any changes to the competence requirements for frontline regulators, including the SRA, will mean changes in the future to how solicitors are required to:
- undertake competence activities
- record and demonstrate their competence
The consultation closes on Monday 7 March 2022.
The LSB has indicated it will publish the finalised policy statement in summer 2022.
The frontline regulators, including the SRA, will then start to work towards any necessary changes to their competence systems.