Continuing competence

In this article, 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

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) uses continuing competence to make sure solicitors can do their jobs to the standard expected of them.

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
  • Continuing competence replaced Continuing Professional Development (CPD) on 1 November 2016

Under CPD, you had to complete a certain number of hours of specified activities each year, with courses and learning provided by approved organisations. Some firms may have decided to keep using this method.

But 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. The annual declaration states you have:

  • reflected on your practice
  • identified and addressed any learning and development needs.

The continuing competence year follows the practising year which runs from 1 November until 31 October each year.

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. Your firm may set further requirements. For context, the SRA also gives levels four and five.

The statement of legal knowledge sets out the knowledge that would be expected of someone qualifying as a solicitor. This matches the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) Assessment Specification for SQE1.

Meeting the requirements

The SRA’s guidance sets out the process it expects you to follow. 

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. Also, keep training records up to date as the SRA can request to review them
  • Law Society Learning or the forms in the SRA’s online toolkit template may help you 

Solicitors with disabilities are entitled to reasonable adjustments in how competency can be demonstrated in line with the SRA’s Reasonable Adjustment Policy.

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

You can identify learning needs for others, and others can do the same for you. 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

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.

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.

Even if you only identify and address one learning need, this will meet the requirement for continuing competence. However, you may wish to consider more widely what you’ve done over the past year. 

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.

In August 2023, the regulatory body released its Annual assessment of continuing competence. 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.

In July 2019, the SRA released a report showing how law firms and solicitors have responded to continuing competence. The tables below show the most common types of training firms have provided since it was introduced.

Internal approaches

External approaches

Read the full SRA report: Understanding implementation of our approach to continuing competence (2019)


If you want to do a course, you should check that the quality of it is acceptable to you. 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.

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.

Making your annual declaration

As part of practising certificate renewals, the SRA will ask you to make the following annual declaration: “I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.”

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

The SRA monitors annual declarations and use this information, alongside other data, to explore concerns around a solicitor’s competence or standard of service.

Read more on how the SRA checks continuing competence

The SRA response to LSB Statement of Policy – ongoing competence (2023) – highlights the steps that the SRA will be taking to ensure that solicitors comply with their responsibilities.

Individual solicitors can make their own annual declaration and complete it for others.

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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