The Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) has proposed liberalising the continuing professional development (CPD) rules to an extent – but not removing the requirement to undertake at least 12 hours of learning a year.
Following a review of the rules – in part in response to pressure from the Legal Services Board – the regulator is set to ditch the “rigid” list of activities that can count towards CPD or any cap on the number of points attainable for each type of activity, as well as the list of providers from which CPD can be sought.
“Instead, Costs Lawyers will be given discretion to undertake those activities which best help them meet their objectives,” it said in a consultation that closes on 2 February.
The CLSB said it was also motivated to act as a result of “emerging evidence” from the wider legal sector on the success of alternative approaches to CPD, and “evidence from our regulatory work suggesting that additional guidance or clarification would be useful in relation to certain aspects of our rules”.
The new approach would have a greater emphasis on learning outcomes. “Our view is that the current CLSB regime lacks flexibility around the content of training and development when compared with the approach adopted by others,” it said.
“Set numbers of CPD points are linked to prescribed categories of activity, with no clear justification for the division between the activities. There is a heavy focus on substantive law, with one category relating to practice management but no provision for wider competency areas, including ‘softer skills’ and professionalism.”
But it recommended not moving as far as both the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board in removing any hours requirement at all: “Evaluation of both those regimes is at an early stage. Many of the perceived benefits of those regimes have been achieved by moving away from a rigid system which requires CPD to be attained only via accredited providers.
“The existing CLSB regime already builds in that flexibility, so there is less to be gained from wholesale change.”
The regulator amended its rules in 2017 to emphasise the need for Costs Lawyers to reflect on their individual development requirements and achievements, while retaining a points-based system of reporting. It said these two elements complemented, rather than undermined, each other by providing “a practical framework within which they could measure, track and report their ongoing training. This continues to be our view, while accepting the need to help practitioners move further towards an outcomes-focused approach”.
Under the new rules, Costs Lawyers would be required to identify their CPD needs and set their CPD objectives in light of their responsibilities and the regulatory principles in the CLSB code of conduct, and evaluate the outcome of their CPD activity against these objectives.
The proposed new rules stress that activities carried out as part of normal practice could not count towards CPD activity.
But the CLSB intends to continue attributing two CPD points to membership of the ACL, “provided that the Costs Lawyer actively uses the resources provided by ACL as part of their overall planning, objective setting and evaluation”, and six points for attending an ACL conference.