Ongoing competence

Five-year policy objective: Regulators have appropriate frameworks for continuing assurance of professional competence throughout the careers of the people they regulate

Why have we committed to this policy objective?

This project goes to the heart of the LSB vision of legal services that everyone can access and trust. Consumers should be able to trust that practitioners have the necessary skills and knowledge to provide good quality legal services and that they are kept up to date and relevant over time.

Recent reforms to education and training have largely focused on assuring day one competence, but regulators should also ensure that practitioners remain competent throughout their careers. While consumers can usually observe ‘service quality’ e.g. promptness, courtesy, administrative efficiency, often they are not able to assess the technical quality of work. This means they rely on there being checks in place to provide quality assurance.

Unlike other professional service sectors e.g. healthcare and teaching, there is no regular, formal assessment of legal practitioners during their careers beyond requirements for continuing professional development. The Board has determined that we should consider whether this status quo is sustainable, if the current approach is effective in protecting consumers’ and the public interest, and the strengths and weaknesses of how legal service regulators assess quality and competence as compared to other professional sectors.

How will we do this?

  • we have an open mind on whether a different approach to providing assurance of competence is needed in the regulated legal services market.
  • we will be guided by the evidence we collect and our aim is to engage widely with a broad range of stakeholders in gathering evidence.
  • we have begun this work with a review of the information we hold at the LSB, any published evidence from regulatory bodies and approved regulators, as well as evidence from other sectors where ongoing competence assurance practices have already been adopted. We have also started looking at learnings from legal academia.
  • we will soon be launching a call for evidence so that we can capture all relevant information to help us understand current approaches to assuring competence and gain clarity on whether there are any gaps in the system or areas of concern that need to be addressed.
  • if we find that there are areas where we need further evidence, then we will consider commissioning primary research to help fill gaps in the evidence base.
  • we will publish the conclusions from our analysis of the evidence during 2020-21 and our proposals for further action, if needed.

Engage with us

Throughout this project, we expect to engage widely with a range of stakeholders, including through our upcoming call for evidence. Our recent roundtable event held in Newcastle in October with a group of local legal sector professionals is the beginning of our engagement and further events are planned in 2020. Further details will follow. We have included a note from the Newcastle event. We will look to hear from and be informed by as many views as possible.

If you would like to speak us about this project, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the project team. We look forward to hearing from you in the coming months.