Consultation questionnaire form
Question 1. Does the competence statement reflect what you would expect a competent solicitor to be able to do?
Our concern about all three papers is that there is insufficient reference to good business practice and development. Entities wishing to offer legal services have to exist before any legal services can be provided.
The Competence Statement does include a section C3 on good business practice but one clause of that covers client money which is a separate issue. We would like to see a Section E covering cold commercial reality and the need to attract instructions.
Good business deveopment in 2015 and onwards will require the ability to plan strategically, awareness of employment law and market research, how to establish a unique selling point, branding and marketing.
Question 2. Are there any additional competences which should be included?
Yes. Competence should include ability to attract instructions and secure “orders”. A competent solicitor is one from whom consumers wish to purchase legal services. The number of interventions in sole practitioner and small firms for reasons other than fraud suggests a need to address business acumen separately from pure legal competences and knowledge.
We believe this issue to be particularly relevant to females and one of the major factors in the high attrition rate of women
Section C3 needs to be expanded to include business development and commercial awareness.
Question 3. Have we struck the right balance in the Statement of Legal Knowledge between the broad qualification consumers tell us they understand by the title solicitor and the degree of focus which comes in time with practice in a particular area?
Yes, subject to what we have said above about the need to be able to actually attract work.
For example during career development many solicitors spend infinite hours applying for membership of specialist panels.
In fact many consumers have never heard of those and instead choose
on brand, image and demeanour within
the first 30 seconds of initial contact. This is a particular issue for women who are more likely to lack confidence and be less naturally able to promote themselves. It is therefore essential for the training to include business development early on.
Question 4. Do you think that the Threshold Standard articulates the standard at which you would expect a newly qualified solicitor to work?
No. We would like to see a seventh column covering “Busines acumen, aptitude and management”.
Our view is that knowledge of cold commercial awareness is essential at the threshhold stage rather than acquired post qualification when it may be too late. New entrants need to be aware of this before entering a profession operating in a finite market with an infinite supply of providers. This applies to both the new Apprenticeship and the traditional LPC plus Training Contract routes. Early knowledge of the legal services market will also enable aspring solicitors to make more informed career choices (for example public or private sector) at an earlier stage.
Question 5. Do you think that the Statement of Legal Knowledge reflects in broad terms the legal knowledge that all solicitors should be required to demonstrate they have prior to qualification?
Yes subject to what we have said in reply to question 3.
Question 6. Do you think that the Competence Statement will be a useful tool to help entities and individuals comply with Principle 5 in the Handbook and ensure their continuing competence?
Yes, subject to our comments above.
Principle 5 states that the solicitor must provide a proper standard of service to clients. The risk is that without the safeguards we have suggested Competence will continue to be compromised as unsavvy solicitors encounter shortage of work, tight cash flow etc. We would also like the Competence statement to refer to Principles 8 and 9. Principle 8 states that the solicitor should run the business effectively and Principle 9 states that the solicitor should carry out his or her role in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity. There should also be express reference to understanding employment issues as this is essential to running any business.
Question 7. Are you aware of any impacts, either positive or negative, which might flow from using the competence statement as a tool to assist entities and individuals with complying with Principle 5 in the Handbook and ensuring their continuing competence?
No subject to what we have already said about the need for the firm to exist and be able to attract “sales”.
Association of Women Solicitors,London January 2015
About Association of Women Solicitors, London
Association of Women Solicitors, London was founded in 1992 and its aims include representing, supporting and developing the interests of women solicitors. Membership is open to all women solicitors and trainees and associate membership to other women lawyers including barristers, legal executives and paralegals.