The Legal Services Consumer Panel has expressed strong support for the Costs Lawyer Standards Board’s review of continuing professional development (CPD).
The CLSB’s consultation on its proposals closed earlier this month. It aims to liberalise the rules to an extent, but not remove the requirement to undertake at least 12 hours of learning a year.
In its response, the panel described the review as “essential”, explaining: “The panel’s research shows that while consumers may be able to observe and make their own assessment of service quality, such as promptness, courtesy and administrative efficiency, they are seldom able to assess technical quality. Thus, it is crucial that lawyers maintain their level of competence.”
It said the proposed rules introduced “a welcome flexibility” around the content and development of training by removing the rigid list of activities that count towards CPD or any cap on the number of points attainable for each type of activity. “Costs Lawyers will now be given discretion to undertake those activities that best help them meet their objectives.”
The panel also supported the view that activities carried out as part of normal practice could not count toward CPD activity.
However, it was right that CPD should cover “dealing appropriately with your client and third parties”, as proposed by the board. “This should also include should emotional competence as an essential skill for lawyers at all stages of their career. We recognise that the use of legal technology in practices is becoming more prevalent; we would encourage the CLSB to consider proposals around training in law tech.”
The panel agreed with the CLSB that the 12-hour requirement should not be a target, but a minimum. “However, the regulator should consider how it can encourage Cost Lawyers to go beyond this minimum requirement.” The panel also backed random CPD audits of returns each year.
“Moreover, it would be useful for the CLSB to undertake a review after three to four years in order to assess the results of the new rules overall.”