Jo Geraghty


Lawyers bid farewell to CPD

Date added: 22nd Aug 2017
Category: Culture of conduct/ethics

Looking at the effect of changes from CPD to continuing competency for the law profession

Remember the old days, the times when you had passed your exams and all you had to look forward to was a lifetime in practice, interspersed with the odd trip out to networking or to some other form of gathering in order to collect CPD points?

Okay, maybe that’s slightly cynical! After all, whilst we may rely on some elements of legislation which is centuries old; the law and the practice of law is ever evolving; responding to changes in technology and societal norms.

And it has to be said that some CPD gathering expeditions were immensely fruitful, helping to bring us up to speed in a whole range of areas from legislative changes to management practices. Let’s be honest though, some events simply provided CPD points without furthering knowledge and approach, whilst at the same time other more beneficial activities weren’t recognised for CPD purposes.

The fact is that the CPD model which served very well in the pre-internet era was no longer fit for purpose in a time in which blended learning was coming increasingly to the fore. Why stick to attending meetings and conferences when you can pick and choose from books and publications, webinars, internet learning programs and online videos? Blended learning methodologies are coming increasingly to the fore in schools and universities, pupils are being taught to think and reason and research so why should our learning activities in adulthood be any different?

Recognising this change, the legal profession has moved on from CPD to a more open and self managed developmental program. Out goes the number of CPD hours and in its place comes a more mature reflection of the quality of practice and learning and a more flexible approach to addressing development needs.

It is perhaps easiest to think of this new approach in terms of the plan/ do/ check/ act system which regulates so many international standards. In other words, individuals and their firms need to identify and plan development needs, carry them out, review and incorporate them into daily practice and then look to identify areas of further improvement.

Those who saw the continuing competency requirement as simpler than the old CPD regime may need to think again. It requires thought and planning and identification of needs alongside positive actions in order to boost competencies. Yes it will deliver far more targeted development but it also requires a far more positive commitment.

The inaugural continuing competency year draws to a close at the end of October 2017. At that stage solicitors will have to make to following declaration:

I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.”

This together with a record of the activities undertaken will need to be kept for a period of six years and can be used by the SRA in combination with other information to identify and explore any ongoing concerns in respect of competence or standard of service. Areas for consideration include:

  1. Ethics, professionalism and judgement
  2. Technical legal practice
  3. Working with other people
  4. Managing yourself and your work

Make no mistake, continuing competency requires positive action. Ongoing development never rests and the end of October is nearer than you think. It’s time, more than time, to start reviewing, planning and building development activities. Leave it much longer and you will have left it too late.

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