Proposals for a laissez-faire approach to continuing professional development (CPD) have been attacked by both the Law Society and the Legal Services Consumer Panel as 'sending the wrong signal' to the profession.
Earlier this year the Solicitors Regulation Authority proposed removing requirements to undertake prescribed CPD through specific regulations. Instead it favours issuing 'non-mandatory' guidance.
The regulator said an overhaul was necessary to reform a 'tick-box' approach with 'no real focus on the quality or appropriateness of the professional development undertaken'.
But Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson (pictured) said that, despite imperfections in the present system, 'it is not clear to us that the SRA's solution is the right one'.
He added: 'At a time when it is almost universally accepted that undertaking CPD is the mark of a professional, the abolition of the requirement may send the wrong signal to employers and clients.'
In a consultation which closed last week, the SRA suggested three options to overhaul CPD.
As well as its preferred option of non-mandatory guidance, the regulator suggested requiring solicitors to plan and reflect on their development or retaining the minimum hours scheme with some modifications.
Hudson said the mandatory requirement provides a spur for solicitors to undertake the CPD they need. 'Without it difficulties may be caused for some solicitors whose employers may think that they can make savings in the training budget,' he said.
The consumer panel said it had serious concerns about the SRA's preferred option in relation to individual accountability and monitoring the quality of work.
The watchdog said that 'weak consumer-driven competition in legal services means that the market alone cannot currently be relied upon to regulate entities effectively'.
However it welcomed the regulator's wish to take a new approach.