June – A quick guide to SRA Statement of Solicitor Competence

SRA Statement of Solicitor Competence– a quick guide and nine steps to get you started!

Are you aware of the Solicitor Competence Statement or do you need a quick recap?

There is no longer a need to commit to a specific number of training hours (16 hours) or accredited training (the SRA no longer accredit training). Currently there is a voluntary system in place until November 2016 when it will become compulsory.

Solicitors will now have full responsibility to undertake training and development to ensure that they comply with Principle Five of the SRA Principles (2011), namely that they are able to deliver a proper standard of service in their practice areas. There is also an expectation that solicitors will continue to ensure that they can comply with Principle 5.

To assist solicitors, on the 11th march 2015, the SRA Board approved the publication of a Competence Statement – http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/policy/training-for-tomorrow/work-streams.page#Collection_1

Competencies are characteristic sets of behaviours, which have been shown to be associated with achieving successful outcomes in organisation. They are underlying behaviours, which enable people to shine in a particular role. They are the factors that distinguish ‘the best from the rest’ in a given role. These are chosen because these are the things that can make a difference.

 The SRA have provided Competence Statements in the following four areas that they require Solicitors to assess and develop (where applicable):

  1. Ethics, professionalism and judgement (A has five sections with twenty-two behavioural characteristics)
  2. Technical legal practice* (B has seven sections with thirty-two behavioural characteristics)
  3. Managing themselves and their own work (D has  three sections with twenty-five behavioural characteristics)
  4. Working with other people (D has three sections with twelve behavioural characteristics).

Please see appendix A for full details of these competencies.

*There are also six levels within technical competence B (only) Threshold Statement as follows:

  1. Functioning knowledge
  2. Standard of work
  3. Autonomy
  4. Complexity
  5. Perception of context
  6. Innovation and originality

The above levels in the Threshold Statement apply to the seven sections of the Technical Competence B, and you need to assess yourself against the appropriate level. The ‘Threshold Standard’ for newly qualifieds is set at number three – Autonomy.

The SRA have also set out an underpinning Statement of Legal Knowledge that identifies what is required for thirteen specific technical areas that NQ’s will need to review against their current knowledge and understanding – see http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/competence-statement/statement-legal-knowledge.page

From this information you will assess your learning activities for your Technical Legal Competence so that you remain up to date and comply with Principle Five.

Nine Steps to enable you to be ready to switch by November 2016

  1. Review all the material available on the SRA website links above. This will help you to determine what you (and your firm) need to do to comply with this new approach. You can then make an informed decision about what changes if any you need to introduce to learning and development system you currently follow.
  2. Or you can purchase our highly popular workshop materials which provides an ‘easy to use’ guide to the SRA Statement of Solicitor Competence and the learning and development framework. Our 45 pages of notes include 23 ideas that can be used to train you (and your solicitors) cost effectively. You will also find a section about introducing change which will give you a head start for implementing this new learning and development framework or adapting your own to take into account the SRA method. B. If you already have a competency method of learning and development that fits your legal business then you can continue to use this
  3. Competence A2 requires that you reflect on your capability and potential in your day-to-day legal practice, and that this is documented. You may choose how you wish to do so that suits your legal practice.
  4. In order to complete any document planning your leaning and development the SRA has suggested on their website (6th March 2016) that you think about.
    1. What you did;
    2. How it was related to ensuring your competence;
    3. What you learnt;
    4. When the activity was completed.’ From SRA website 6th March 2016.
  5. Following self-assessment, a development plan will need to be completed. The SRA have provided a Development Plan template for you to complete if you do not have one of your own that suits your legal practice.
  6. Please note that there are now lots of ways to address learning needs that are recognised as appropriate by the SRA. They have listed several on their website from formal to informal training (including shared learning and file reviews) and many more. To assist you I have designed specific coaching and training packages tailored to the Competencies A, C-D called ‘Documenting your Brilliance’ ™. See http://www.yorkshirecoursesforlawyers.co.uk for further details and pricing.
  7. When completing your ‘learning’ planning document or the SRA’s Development Plan, you will need to set out how you are going to address your identified areas for improvement over the next 3/6/12 months.
  8. As you work through your plan, you will need to capture your progress. If you do not have a development record then you can start with the SRA’s base template. We (SRA) do not prescribe a specific approach, however, for each of your identified learning and development need(s) you may find it useful to record:
    • What you did;
    • How it was related to ensuring your competence;
    • What you learnt;
    • When the activity was completed.’ From SRA website 6th March 2016.

You may also include what could have been done better and how. What are you going to do differently in the future?

9. Solicitors have individual responsibility to follow this process so don’t wait for your firm to decide what system they want to apply if they won’t be ready for November – use the SRA base templates.

It is strongly recommended that before you complete your application for renewal in November you have at least completed either your own learning and development plan or the SRA Development Plan template.

 Please contact ann@yorkshirecoursesforlawyers.co.uk if you require more information on:

  1. The Statement of Solicitor Competence and its impact for you and/or
  2. How to introduce a competency based assessment process in to your practice and/or
  3. Cost effective training or coaching package designed to support Competencies A, C and D.

 So who am I?

Ann Page is a Top 100 Lawyer, with an impressive CV over a 28-year career as a senior in-house lawyer delivering first class legal services.  She has over 17 years experience of competence based systems and was instrumental in putting together seven specific competencies for lawyers.

Ann has delivered leadership, management and interpersonal skills training for the last 13 years to nearly 7000 lawyers. She holds an HNLP certificate in coaching as well as being a certified NLP Master Practitioner, a member of the Professional Speakers Association. She set up Yorkshire courses for lawyers in 2015 to bring top quality training and coaching to your doorstep.

Appendix A Detailed SRA Statement of Competence April 2015

  1. Ethics, professionalism and judgement

A1 Act honestly and with integrity, in accordance with legal and regulatory requirements and the SRA Handbook and Code of Conduct, including:

  1. Recognising ethical issues and exercising effective judgement in addressing them
  2. Understanding and applying the ethical concepts which govern their role and behaviour as a lawyer
  3. Identifying the relevant SRA principles and rules of professional conduct and following them
  4. Resisting pressure to condone, ignore or commit unethical behaviour
  5. Respecting diversity and acting fairly and inclusively

A2 Maintain the level of competence and legal knowledge needed to practise effectively, taking into account changes in their role and/or practice context and developments in the law, including:

  1. Taking responsibility for personal learning and development
  2. Reflecting on and learning from practice and learning from other people
  3. Accurately evaluating their strengths and limitations in relation to the demands of their work
  4. Maintaining an adequate and up-to-date understanding of relevant law, policy and practice
  5. Adapting practice to address developments in the delivery of legal services

 A3 Work within the limits of their competence and the supervision, which they need, including:

  1. Disclosing when work is beyond their personal capability
  2. Recognising when they have made mistakes or are experiencing difficulties and taking appropriate action
  3. Seeking and making effective use of feedback, guidance and support where needed
  4. Knowing when to seek expert advice

 A4 Draw on a sufficient detailed knowledge and understanding of their field(s) of work and role in order to practise effectively, including:

  1. Identifying relevant legal principles
  2. Applying legal principles to factual issues, so as to produce a solution which best addresses a client’s needs and reflects the client’s commercial or personal circumstances
  3. Spotting issues that are outside their expertise and taking appropriate action, using both an awareness of a broad base of legal knowledge1 (insofar as relevant to their practice area) and detailed knowledge of their practice area

A5 Apply understanding, critical thinking and analysis to solve problems, including:

  1. Assessing information to identify key issues and risks
  2. Recognising inconsistencies and gaps in information
  3. Evaluating the quality and reliability of information
  4. Using multiple sources of information to make effective judgements
  5. Reaching reasoned decisions supported by relevant evidence

B Technical legal practice

 B1 Obtain relevant facts, including:

  1. Obtaining relevant information through effective use of questioning and active listening
  2. Finding, analysing and assessing documents to extract relevant information
  3. Recognising when additional information is needed
  4. Interpreting and evaluating information obtained
  5. Recording and presenting information accurately and clearly.

B2 Undertake legal research, including:

  1. Recognising when legal research is required
  2. Using appropriate methods and resources to undertake the research
  3. Identifying, finding and assessing the relevance of sources of law
  4. Interpreting, evaluating and applying the results of the research
  5. Recording and presenting the findings accurately and clearly.

B3 Develop and advise on relevant options, strategies and solutions, including:

  1. Understanding and assessing a client’s commercial and personal circumstances, their needs, objectives, priorities and constraints
  2. Ensuring that advice is informed by appropriate legal and factual analysis and identifies the consequences of different options.

B4 Draft documents which are legally effective and accurately reflect the client’s instructions including:

  1. Being able to draft documents from scratch as well as making appropriate use of precedents
  2. Addressing all relevant legal and factual issues
  3. Complying with appropriate formalities
  4. Using clear, accurate and succinct language.

B5 Undertake effective spoken and written advocacy2, including

  1. Preparing effectively by identifying and mastering relevant facts and legal principles
  2. Organising facts to support the argument or position
  3. Presenting a reasoned argument in a clear, logical, succinct and persuasive way
  4. Making appropriate reference to legal authority
  5. Complying with formalities
  6. Dealing with witnesses appropriately
  7. Responding effectively to questions or opposing arguments
  8. Identifying strengths and weaknesses from different parties’ perspectives.

B6 Negotiate solutions to clients’ issues, including:

  1. Identifying all parties’ interests, objectives and limits
  2. Developing and formulating best options for meeting parties’ objectives
  3. Presenting options for compromise persuasively
  4. Responding to options presented by the other side
  5. Developing compromises between options or parties.

 B7 Plan, manage and progress legal cases and transactions, including:

  1. Applying relevant processes and procedures to progress the matter effectively
  2. Assessing, communicating and managing risk
  3. Bringing the transaction or case to a conclusion
Notes
  1. Legal System of England and Wales, constitutional law and EU law (including human rights), contract law, torts, ethics, professional conduct and regulation, including money laundering and solicitors accounts, criminal law and evidence, criminal litigation, civil litigation, property law, wills and administration of estates, trusts and equitable wrongs, law of and taxation, and other areas relevant to the solicitor’s particular field of practice.
  2. Note this applies to advocacy both in and out of court

C Working with other people

 C1 Communicate clearly and effectively, orally and in writing, including:

  1. Ensuring that communication achieves its intended objective
  2. Responding to and addressing individual characteristics effectively and sensitively
  3. Using the most appropriate method and style of communication for the situation and the recipient(s)
  4. Using clear, succinct and accurate language avoiding unnecessary technical terms
  5. Using formalities appropriate to the context and purpose of the communication
  6. Maintaining the confidentiality and security of communications
  7. Imparting any difficult or unwelcome news clearly and sensitively

C2 Establish and maintain effective and professional relations with clients, including:

  1. Treating clients with courtesy and respect
  2. Providing information in a way that clients can understand, taking into account their personal circumstances and any particular vulnerability
  3. Understanding and responding effectively to clients’ particular needs, objectives, priorities and constraints
  4. Identifying and taking reasonable steps to meet the particular service needs of all clients including those in vulnerable circumstances
  5. Identifying possible courses of action and their consequences and assisting clients in reaching a decision
  6. Managing clients’ expectations regarding options, the range of possible outcomes, risk and timescales
  7. Agreeing the services that are being provided and a clear basis for charging
  8. Explaining the ethical framework within which the solicitor works
  9. Informing clients in a timely way of key facts and issues including risks, progress towards objectives, and costs
  10. Responding appropriately to clients’ concerns and complaints

C3 Establish and maintain effective and professional relations with other people, including:

  1. Treating others with courtesy and respect
  2. Delegating tasks when appropriate to do so
  3. Supervising the work of others effectively
  4. Keeping colleagues informed of progress of work, including any risks or problems
  5. Acknowledging and engaging with others’ expertise when appropriate
  6. Being supportive of colleagues and offering advice and assistance when required
  7. Being clear about expectations
  8. Identifying, selecting and, where appropriate, managing external experts or consultants

D Managing themselves and their own work

 D1 Initiate, plan, prioritise and manage work activities and projects to ensure that they are completed efficiently, on time and to an appropriate standard, both in relation to their own work and work that they lead or supervise, including:

  1. Clarifying instructions so as to agree the scope and objectives of the work
  2. Taking into account the availability of resources in initiating work activities
  3. Meeting timescales, resource requirements and budgets
  4. Monitoring, and keeping other people informed of, progress
  5. Dealing effectively with unforeseen circumstances
  6. Paying appropriate attention to detail.

D2 Keep, use and maintain accurate, complete and clear records, including:

  1. Making effective use of information management systems (whether electronic or hard copy), including storing and retrieving information
  2. Complying with confidentiality, security, data protection and file retention and destruction requirements

D3 Apply good business practice, including:

  1. Demonstrating an adequate understanding of the commercial, organisational and financial context in which they work and their role in it
  2. Understanding the contractual basis on which legal services are provided, including where appropriate how to calculate and manage costs and bill clients
  3. Applying the rules of professional conduct to accounting and financial matters
  4. Managing available resources and using them efficiently

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