Continuing competence and continuing professional development

1 Introduction

1.1 Who should read this practice note?

All solicitors in legal practice or employment in England or Wales.

1.2 What is the issue?

All solicitors and registered European lawyers (RELs) in legal practice or employment in England and Wales must comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s continuing professional development requirements or continuing competence requirements.

The current CPD system is being replaced by the continuing competence requirements. Solicitors can choose to move to the new system as of 1 April 2015 or they may remain under the old system until 1 November 2016 when they must move to the new system.

There are also interim arrangements in place that affect those under the old system.

This practice note gives advice on getting the most from your CPD, by choosing activities most suited to you as a practitioner and to your practice as a business.

2 What is CPD?

CPD is the training requirement set by the SRA to ensure that all solicitors and RELs maintain competence.

Your CPD requirement can be met by undertaking a course, lecture, seminar or other programme or method of study, whether requiring attendance or not. To qualify as a CPD activity, it should be at an appropriate level and contribute to your general professional skill and knowledge.

All solicitors and RELs in their first CPD year and in each subsequent year must complete 16 hours of CPD per year. The year runs from 1 November to 31 October.

Visit the SRA’s website for more information

2.1 What is continuing competence?

Continuing competence is the new system which is replacing the old CPD regime. It is a way of showing that you meet the requirement under principle 5 of the SRA Handbook to provide a proper standard of service to your client by meeting the competences set out in the Competence Statement adopted on 1 April 2015.

In order to comply you will need to undertake regular learning and development so your skills and knowledge remain up to date. This should form part of a process of reflecting on your learning needs, planning your CPD activities, carrying them out and recording what you have done in order to make an annual declaration to the SRA.

The new system does not require a set number of hours, or that you undertake accredited courses or training. The requirement for the Management Course Stage 1 has also been removed. It is for you to decide which activities to undertake to best address your learning needs.

Visit the SRA’s website, where a continuing competence toolkit and sample forms are available, for more information.

3 Planning for your CPD

Regardless of which system you choose to come under until 1 November 2016 you should link your individual training needs to the objectives of your practice to get the most from your CPD activities. You should:

  • identify and analyse your training needs
  • discuss these needs with your firm

4 Getting the most out of the CPD/ continuing competence scheme

You must meet the requirements of the CPD or continuing competence scheme, but the schemes offers flexibility as to how you do this. You can take advantage of the wide range of activities the scheme offers, staying up to date with changes in the law and the profession that are relevant to your practice, as well as developing the skills and attributes listed in the Competence Statement. Participation in one of the schemes enhances the credibility of you and your practice, and allows your practice to remain commercially competitive.

You may wish to consider the following activities when planning your CPD:

  • participation in courses
  • working towards professional qualifications
  • coaching and/or mentoring sessions
  • work shadowing
  • listening to or watching audio/visual material produced
  • distance learning
  • writing on law or practice
  • research
  • production of a dissertation counting towards an SRA recognised qualification
  • development of specialist areas of law
  • preparing and delivering training courses forming part of the process of qualification or post-admission training
  • work towards a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) or other qualification

4.1 Participation in accredited courses

You no longer need to participate in accredited courses and the SRA is no longer accrediting courses or providers for the purposes of CPD. This is the case even where you choose to remain under the old system for the time being.

You may still undertake courses as part of your CPD activities though.

4.2 Coaching and/or mentoring

In order to get the most from undertaking coaching and/or mentoring sessions as a CPD activity you should ensure:

  • they are structured
  • they involve professional development
  • you have set aside some specific time dedicated to the CPD activity
  • there are written aims and objectives
  • the sessions are documented showing an outcome

Sessions may be face to face or delivered from a distance.

4.3 Work shadowing

Work shadowing is where you shadow or follow someone in their work role for a period of time, for the purpose of enhancing your performance and that of the person you shadow.

To provide the best experience, work shadowing should:

  • be structured
  • have clear aims and objectives
  • require feedback or reflection on the shadowing activity

4.4 Writing on law or practice

You may wish to undertake CPD activity around writing on law or practice for publication. Examples include:

  • law books and journals
  • publications for clients
  • clients’ own publications
  • newspapers and magazines, whether legal publications or not
  • the internet

4.5 Research

You may wish to consider research as a CPD activity. It should relate to legal topics or have relevance to your practice/organisation. Research may result in some form of written document, precedent, memorandum, questionnaire or survey etc.

4.6 Development of specialist areas of law

You may wish to consider participating in the development of specialist areas of law and practice by attending meetings of specialist committees and/or working parties of relevant professional or other competent bodies charged with such work..

5 Transitional arrangements

5.1 Can I stay under the current CPD system?

You can remain under the current (old) CPD system under 1 November 2016. You will need to continue to meet the requirements of this system by completing 16 hours of CPD activity. The only changes are that you will no longer be required to undertake accredited courses or complete the Management Course Stage 1.

5.2 Can I move to the new system of continuing competence?

As of 1 April 2015 any solicitor may choose to move to the new regime.

5.3 When will the old system cease to exist?

1 November 2016. At this point any solicitors still under the old system must move across to the new system.

6 More information

6.1 Practice Advice Service

The Law Society provides support for solicitors on a wide range of areas of practice. Practice Advice can be contacted on 020 7320 5675 from 09:00 to 17:00 on weekdays or email practiceadvice@lawsociety.org.uk

6.2 Law Society Consulting

If you require further support, Law Society Consulting can help. We offer expert and confidential support and guidance, including face-to-face consultancy on risk and compliance. Please contact us on 020 7316 5655, or email consulting@lawsociety.org.uk.

Find out more about our consultancy services

6.3 SRA

The SRA regulates solicitors in England and Wales. It makes and enforces the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct.

6.4 Law Society CPD Centre

The CPD Centre is completely free to use and enables you to access a variety of Law Society Online CPD courses, including free webinars and forms of e-learning as well as events.

Visit the Law Society’s CPD Centre website

6.5 Law Society training and events

Events and training seminars that you can use as CPD activities.

6.6 Law Society publications

The Solicitor’s Handbook 2015

7 Terminology

Must – A specific requirement in legislation or of a principle, rule, outcome or other mandatory provision in the SRA Handbook. You must comply, unless there are specific exemptions or defences provided for in relevant legislation or the SRA Handbook.


  • Outside of a regulatory context, good practice for most situations in the Law Society’s view.
  • In the case of the SRA Handbook, an indicative behaviour or other non-mandatory provision (such as may be set out in notes or guidance).

These may not be the only means of complying with legislative or regulatory requirements and there may be situations where the suggested route is not the best possible route to meet the needs of your client. However, if you do not follow the suggested route, you should be able to justify to oversight bodies why the alternative approach you have taken is appropriate, either for your practice, or in the particular retainer.

May – A non-exhaustive list of options for meeting your obligations or running your practice. Which option you choose is determined by the profile of the individual practice, client or retainer. You may be required to justify why this was an appropriate option to oversight bodies.

SRA Code – SRA Code of Conduct 2011

CPD – continuing professional development

REL – Registered European lawyer

SRA – Solicitors Regulation Authority

SRA Code – SRA Code of Conduct 2011

2007 Code – Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007

OFR – Outcomes-focused regulation