find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
Looking to the mother country

Looking to the mother country

Mandatory Legal Education reforms in the UK should lead to a critical analysis of CLE in Australia, writes Jonathan Seifman

Mandatory Legal Education reforms in the UK should lead to a critical analysis of CLE in Australia, writes Jonathan Seifman

In the biggest shake-up of mandatory legal education in the UK since 1985 (when the mandatory requirement was first introduced), in May the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) announced a major overhaul to CPD in the UK.

The biggest change is the removal of the blanket necessity for solicitors in the UK to complete a compulsory 16 hours' training per year. Instead, a regime will be phased in that puts the onus back on the firm and the individual to ensure their ongoing education enables them to “to deliver competent legal services”.

The SRA says “it would be for regulated entities and individuals to decide how these outcomes are achieved”, while assisting the profession by providing non-mandatory guidance for firms and individuals, with suggestions for implementing their CPD cycle.

In addition, a declaration will be added into the individual and firm practicing certificate renewal process, whereby lawyers and firms will need to confirm that they have considered their CPD needs.

The changes will be phased in from mid-2015 and fully introduced by November 2016.


Why the change?

Perhaps the best summary of why the system was changed comes from one of the solicitors’ responses to a recent survey of CPD education in the UK:

“What’s the purpose of CPD again? …It’s a serious question because I’m not sure. I can’t remember whether it’s to learn something or to show you’ve spent 16 hours a year pretending to learn something to satisfy the sort of thing that you ought to be doing.”

Martin Coleman, chair of the SRA Education and Training Committee put it more formally: “There is a broad consensus that the current approach to CPD is largely a "tick box" exercise requiring individuals to certify that they have undertaken the mandatory number of hours of CPD with no real focus on the quality or appropriateness of the professional development that has been undertaken. The current system imposes a regulatory burden on individuals and the SRA with no readily identifiable regulatory benefit”.

The SRA went on to provide a list of weaknesses of the current system, including that it:

1.    Is over prescriptive and inflexible;

2.  Concentrates on compliance with the arbitrary requirement to undertake 16 hours CPD rather than focusing on how CPD might assure competence;

3.    Does not enable us to target our regulatory resource to the areas of highest risk;

4.    Does not take into account the varied contexts within which solicitors now work and legal services are now delivered; and

5    Is difficult to enforce in a meaningful way.


Domestic introspection

In the short-term, it’s highly unlikely that mandatory education in Australia will follow the same path as the UK.

For starters, the UK has a single national governing body, making it easier to implement a blanket system for the entire profession. In Australia, mandatory education is governed at State and territory level by the relevant Law Society, so getting uniformity across the country for such a big change will take a lot of time.

Secondly, there hasn’t been the level of introspection and review in Australia to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the current system. In the UK, there was a formal review, followed by an extensive consultation process. Until something similar is done here, it’s unlikely massive change will take place.

Jonathan Seifman (pictured) is the CEO of Bulletpoints, a website that allows busy lawyers to find and track CPD options and points.

In September Lawyers Weekly and Bulletpoints will be inviting readers to complete a survey to see how CLE is viewed by the profession in Australia.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Looking to the mother country
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
Marriage equality flag
Aug 17 2017
ALHR backs High Court challenge to marriage equality postal vote
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has voiced its support for a constitutional challenge to ...
Give advice
Aug 17 2017
A-G issues advice on judiciary’s public presence
Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis QC has offered his advice on the public presence of jud...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...