Tuesday 3rd September 2019
All solicitors must reflect upon and address their learning and development needs, and confirm that they have done this when renewing their practising certificate. An important thing to remember when reflecting on your professional competence is to consider your personal as well as your technical skills.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s competence statement covers four areas and may be a useful prompt to assist you in your reflection. This article summarises the four areas; you can see the full detail of the competence statement here.
A: Ethics, professionalism and judgement
Competence A is ‘ethics, professionalism and judgement’, which covers a vast range of areas on which training may be required. It’s crucial that solicitors remain up-to-date on their ethical obligations, especially where they are likely to work with clients where issues such as mental capacity or undue influence may arise.
Competence A also covers keeping up-to-date with relevant law, policy and practice, including changes to statutory law and developments in case law, as well as longer-term developments. Client needs evolve over time, especially in areas where technology is advancing more quickly than the law. For example, dealing with digital assets is a key issue for private client lawyers as people are living and managing their lives online. Even experienced practitioners will benefit from training that helps them to see and prepare for what’s coming, such as law reform consultations.
B: Technical legal practice
Competence B is ‘technical legal practice’, which is about putting knowledge into practice. This includes competence in obtaining information from clients, drafting documents, finding solutions to problems and progressing a case to conclusion. Activities involving these skills are likely to be everyday tasks for most lawyers so there will be plenty of opportunity for practice, but training that supports advanced skill development in these areas will be invaluable and can help solicitors to offer even better service to clients.
C: Working with other people
Competences C and D might represent a departure from what some solicitors have typically seen as the key focus of their training, as they focus on soft skills, or what some firms call performance skills.
Very few lawyers will work in complete isolation within their firm, so competence C will include team work skills to work effectively with colleagues. Perhaps more important, though, is working with clients. Many lawyers will need to discuss sensitive issues with clients, whether private individuals who may be vulnerable through age or circumstance, or corporate clients looking for confidential advice on a business matter. Training on working with vulnerable clients, communication skills and diversity can be useful to invest in.
It’s not uncommon to hear people say ‘X is a brilliant lawyer but has no people skills’, but the continuing competence regime really says that a good lawyer needs to be competent – or better – across all aspects of practice. Even if you feel confident in your technical skills, you cannot ignore skill development in other areas, and face to face training can be especially beneficial here.
D: Managing yourself and your own work
Competence D is about having the skills to effectively manage your workload to enable you to meet client expectations. Competition from non-solicitors able to provide some legal services is at an all-time high, and providing an efficient and personal service is what will bring clients back again and again. These skills will include delegation, time management and even managing files and records in an orderly manner: skills that will help to keep your clients happy and reduce the stress of a busy and changing workload.
Want to know more about submitting your continuing competence declaration? Read our article here.
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