As Documented Within Previous Linkilaw Blogs, The Legal Profession Is On The Move.
Rest assured legal traditionalists, the Law Society has not yet abandoned the wood panelled solemnity of 113 chancery lane but the profession is moving in various new directions and one is about how to ensure the continuing competency of its lawyers.
Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
Only recently, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) confirmed that lawyers will be required to commit to a statement of continuing competence from November 2016. It is intended that that this will guide solicitors and their clients on the required standards that they are expected to achieve.
The aim is to identify generic core activities that all lawyers should be able to do, regardless of their practice area, and apply a benchmark standard. Lawyers working in particular areas of practice will then take the competence statement and apply it to their particular area of work.
The decision represents a calculated shift from the historical “continuing professional development” of lawyers to a standardised benchmark, following a comprehensive 12 week consultation between the SRA board and members of the profession.
Legal Advice And Lawyer Competence Benchmark
Whilst the competence benchmark will be published on the SRA website in April 2015, there will be 3 competency sections namely the statement itself, the statement of knowledge and the threshold standard.
The competence statement itself will comprise of 4 elements comprising of
(1) Ethics professionalism and judgement
(2) Technical legal practice
(3) Working with other people and
(4) The ability to manage themselves and their own workload.
A further category will establish the concept of applying good business practice, with specific regard to ensuring that lawyers appreciate the financial context in which they are working and effectively managing resources. Now that will be interesting!
As part of a lengthy consultation process, the SRA considered 72 formal responses and the majority of these supported the competence statement as a quality benchmark for what lawyers should be able to do.
The SRA will now present a proposal to the Legal Services Board to amend legal parameters (pursuant to principle 5 of the SRA Principles) to explain how lawyers must provide a proper standard of service to their clients.
The measures are not intended as a draconian measure to discipline lawyers with a “Big Brother” mentality. They are designed to protect clients and proactively deal with those lawyers who consistently deliver bad advice. [Ed: we assume this means, remove from the profession?]
Time will only tell how effective the use of competence statements are; most business owners will continue to choose their legal advisors based upon a number of other factors, not least a proven track record of delivering exceptional customer service and cost effective advice.
But it’s a step forward in helping to drag the legal profession closer to the expectations of the commercial market they serve and according, the a 2013 LSB survey, fail miserably to provide a value add service
Of course, achieving measurable levels of “competence” is fine but will hardly set the entrepreneurs pulse racing. Competence sounds like a rather low barrier to entry. What is much more exciting, and useful, is to create a true measurement of commercial competence, measurement and dare we say, the ability for business owners to measure the value and ROI of legal spend.
Some of us on the edges of the legal services market aspire to transform not only the way that lawyers perform but also the way that business owners can measure that performance. That way we can provide some real value to the markets assessment of a great lawyer vs a competent one.
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