Continuing competence

We break down what continuing competence for solicitors is, while outlining how to identify your learning needs and remain compliant.

This guide covers:

Overview of continuing competence

Maintaining and upholding standards of practice is a key part of being a member of a profession.

For solicitors, the regulatory requirement for this is set out through continuing competence.

This is the way in which solicitors are expected to review their practice and identify areas for improvement or updating, to ensure they maintain the highest standards of practice.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) sets and manages continuing competence requirements including setting the minimum regulatory standard expected of them.

Most solicitors will go above and beyond this regulatory minimum in the course of their practice.

Consistent reflection is a critical part of becoming a successful lifelong learner.

It shows that practitioners are committed to self-monitoring and assessing how experiences interact with more formal routes to knowledge acquisition. This in turn produces informed and regulatory compliant practitioners.

Ongoing reflective practice demonstrates how knowledge changes across a career. It can also help individuals demonstrate how they’ve incorporated these changes into their practice.

Continuing competence focuses on:

  • identifying and reviewing your learning needs
  • undertaking learning to meet your needs
  • reflecting on your learning
  • identifying and reviewing future learning needs

Any activity that helps you meet your learning needs counts towards continuing competence, and there is no target for the number of hours you have to spend learning.

You must complete an annual declaration when you renew your practising certificate, even if you do not identify any learning needs.

In August 2023, the SRA released its first annual assessment of continuing competence report.

This report outlines findings from the SRA’s review into how solicitors keep their skills and knowledge up to date and how firms make sure they are competent to provide the legal services they offer.

Who must comply

To comply with the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs, all solicitors must maintain their competence to carry out their role.

If you have a practising certificate, you’re expected to comply with continuing competence wherever in the world you practise and whether or not you’re practising English law, including when working overseas or in-house.

This includes:

  • retired solicitors who maintain a practising certificate
  • registered European lawyers

Registered foreign lawyers are not expected to comply.

SRA competence statement

The SRA’s competence statement helps you meet the continuing competence requirement. It is in three parts:

The statement of solicitor competence sets out the requirements for:

  • ethics, professionalism and judgment
  • technical legal practice
  • working with other people
  • managing yourself and your own work

The threshold standard sets the minimum level of competence needed for you to continue to practice. This is set at level three, which is also the standard qualifying solicitors are expected to meet.

The statement of legal knowledge sets out the knowledge that would be expected of someone qualifying as a solicitor.

Meeting the requirements

You’ll need to:

  • reflect on your practice to identify any learning needs. You can use the competence statement and apply it to your practice
  • plan how you’ll address your learning needs – think about the learning activities you will do
  • complete the learning activities
  • evaluate how the learning activity has met the learning need and how you’ll use your skills and knowledge in your practice
  • record how you carried out this process, to show that you’ve taken steps to maintain your ongoing competence.  
  • Law Society Learning or the forms in the SRA’s online toolkit template may help you

The SRA sets a minimum level of competence needed to practise as a solicitor. Your firm may set a higher standard of competence as an expectation.

Identifying your learning needs

A learning need is where you identify a gap in your knowledge and skills, or a need to update them.

You’ll determine the needs by reflecting on your practice and any gaps that have become apparent as you do your work.

To help identify any gaps, you should: 

  • consider your professional responsibilities set out in paragraph 3.1 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs. This requires you to provide a proper standard of service to your clients and consider how you can best show that you’re doing this
  • think about your role within your firm and your responsibilities to your employer and colleagues

You may want to refer to the SRA’s competence statement for guidance.

Who can identify learning needs

Most people will identify their own learning needs following reflection on their practice.

However, you can also identify learning needs for others, and others can identify them for you.

Firms may decide to set learning requirements for their solicitors in this regard.

It’s a good idea to share your reflections with your colleagues because they might have the same learning needs.

Firms may also collaborate, formally or informally, with other solicitors, barristers or non-legal businesses such as accountants to:

  • deliver training
  • share best practice
  • cut training costs

If you do not identify any learning needs

It is highly unlikely that no learning needs are identified in the course of a year as most practitioners will undertake legal updating at a minimum.

We would encourage solicitors to reflect on how they have sought answers to queries, and materials they have read or watched in relation to their practice.

All of these are learning activities undertaken to address a learning need and it may just be necessary to reframe it in this context.

However, if you’ve considered your duty to your clients and to your firm and are satisfied that you do not have any learning needs, you do not have to do any learning activities. But you must still: 

It is important to note that if you have not identified any learning needs, nor completed any development, and the SRA raises concerns about your competence, it may decide to investigate further.

Reflecting on your learning needs

You may want to reflect on your learning needs regularly.

For example, you could spend a few minutes once a week or month noting any areas you need to address and learning activities undertaken. 

Alternatively, you may choose to reflect when you complete a particular piece of work.

You should plan and address your learning needs every quarter, spreading out your learning activities to suit you.

If a learning need poses a significant risk to your ability to deliver a proper standard of service, you should try to address this as soon as possible. You should have addressed it by the time you make your annual declaration.

Reflecting on your learning needs requires that you consider all aspects of your practice, taking a holistic view of your learning needs.

Whilst identifying and addressing even one learning need will meet the requirement for continuing competence, a wider consideration is likely to highlight further instances of continuing competence activities.

There are many ways to address learning needs, both formal and informal. For example, you may have addressed other learning needs by updating your knowledge on a topic or discussing a matter with a colleague.

Learning activities

Any activity that helps you meet your learning needs counts towards continuing competence, for example:

  • working towards professional qualifications
  • taking part in courses and accreditations
  • work shadowing
  • listening to or watching audio-visual material
  • doing research

The SRA template suggests more activities to meet your learning needs.

You should also consider more holistic areas of learning that can support your practice such as:

  • equality, diversity, and inclusion
  • professional ethics
  • management training, particularly for those in management roles
  • anti-money laundering (AML) roles and responsibilities
  • sustainability and its role in your practice 

Internal approaches

External approaches



If you want to do a course, you should check that the content and level are appropriate to meet your identified learning need. The SRA does not accredit courses or course providers. 

If your firm will not fund continuing competence activities

There are many activities you can do to meet the continuing competence requirements that are free, for example, work shadowing or taking part in webinars.

You should discuss the necessity and importance of meeting your continuing competence requirements and the best way to manage these.

Keeping a record

The SRA may ask for your records of planning and completing learning activities if it:

  • needs to contact you about a regulatory matter
  • has evidence of a competence risk

You may also have to disclose your records if a case is brought against you for negligence or if a claim is made on your professional indemnity insurance.

CPD diary

Demonstrate your expertise with our new continuing professional development (CPD) diary.

It’s an easy-to-use digital tool to record, reflect on and plan your professional development and learning goals.

Your CPD diary will help you:

  • remain compliant with developing regulation
  • stay up to date with changes to practice
  • demonstrate your continuing competence to employers, clients and peers

Continuing professional development is more than a box-ticking exercise – learning and development happens in many ways and in many places, and we’ve designed the diary to flexibly capture the different types of activity that you can do.

It automatically records any activity you complete on Law Society Learning and you can manually add other Law Society CPD outputs (such as events, roundtables and practice notes).

You can also add formal CPD completed at your firm, or informal learning in your own time.

Its reporting tools mean you can easily export everything you need to demonstrate your ongoing development.

We are by your side to help you stay competitive and compliant at each stage of your career, whether you’re newly qualified or in a senior role.

Our new CPD diary is your career companion that will help you reflect on your achievements and identify actions to develop your skills, grow as a solicitor and stay competitive in a fast-changing world.

Making your annual declaration 

All solicitors who have a practising certificate must make an annual declaration to the SRA, whether they work in the UK or overseas.

The SRA will be carrying out an annual assessment of continuing competence across the profession as a whole.

This will cover how solicitors keep their skills and knowledge up to date and how firms make sure they are competent to provide the legal services they offer. It will also identify areas of concern.

The first assessment report was published in August 2023.

Individual solicitors can make their own annual declaration, or firms may complete the declarations for their solicitors.

Firms that complete the practising certificate renewal exercise (PCRE) forms on behalf of their solicitors can also make the declaration in the relevant section of the forms.

You can sign the annual declaration form even if you haven’t addressed all of the learning needs you identified.

For example, you may choose to attend training that takes place after the annual returns date.

Or you might not have had time to address all of your learning needs if you identified quite a few. In this case, you just need to try to achieve them within a reasonable timeframe.

If you do not meet your firm’s required standard of competence

By making the annual declaration, you’re only confirming to the SRA that you’ve reflected on the quality of your practice and addressed any learning needs.

The declaration does not state whether you’re competent.

It’s employers’ responsibility to deal with any issues around the competence of individual solicitors, for example by putting in place supervision arrangements.


Law Society Learning – online legal learning resources, including webinars to help you meet continuing competence requirements

Law Society events and training  

SRA statement of solicitor competence

Understanding implementation of our approach to continuing competence (2019) – SRA report highlighting how solicitors have responded to continuing competence

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