Updated: Feb 9
About 40% of law firms and solicitors are undergoing more professional training under the most recent CPD regime for the industry, introduced in 2016. How else is CPD for law professionals changing?
If you provide CPD for law professionals, you should be up to date on the latest developments in the industry, what Law CPD looks like as a whole, and how it looks set to evolve over the next few years. The following article will be all about this topic.
How Law CPD Has Changed Before
In November 2016, CPD for solicitors was reshaped. Compulsory minimum training hours were removed and the approach became more outcomes-focused. This allowed law firms and solicitors to more flexibly manage their own training. In other words, CPD for law professionals has recently been moving towards an approach that concentrates on what law professionals get out of CPD, as opposed to making them complete box-ticking exercises for the sake of having done them.
Rita McGucken, Head of Learning and Development at national firm Simpson Millar, told Legal Futures that making CPD more outcomes-focused has been advantageous, as it’s made lawyers “sit down and plan their training needs and knowledge gaps as part of the appraisal process”, and made law firms “think harder about the value of content and its relevance, and include soft skills”.
Any problems with this favoured approach seem to have already been ironed out by most professional organisations in the field. Emma Pearmaine, Managing Director of Ridley & Hall Solicitors and Former President of Leeds Law Society, stated that “The new system provides more flexibility to open up different perspectives and provide for other skills”. She also said that while the biggest challenge with the system is discipline, it’s been tackled by using the appraisal process and learning and development plans to investigate what needs individuals have, and how to meet them head-on. The Legal Services Board (LSB) has stated some limitations with current Law CPD models, namely reliance on individuals to identify their own learning and development needs, and a lack of independent verification on how relevant and effective certain CPD activities are. The LSB have been holding full consultations on continuing competence, so we’ll soon see how these will affect CPD for lawyers.
Overall, such positive feedback of outcomes-focused CPD most likely means that this approach will continue in the long term. It may also mean that soft skills will have more of a relevance in future CPD programmes for law professionals, as these end up being what’s most relevant for them.
Furthermore, we’ve seen how the pandemic made flexibility a need. Therefore, we expect this approach to CPD to only increase in flexibility, and allow for more adaptable, personalised learning.
How Much is CPD Prioritised in Law?
In March 2020, when the UK’s first lockdown was enacted, CPD wasn’t a priority for most industries. Recovery and survival were rightfully more important.
Emma Pearmaine supported that this was true for many law firms; she stated that with staff furloughs and emergency working-from-home arrangements, “CPD was not on the list of urgent things for the first few months”. However, after working from home became established as a long term measure, Ms Pearmaine stated that more adaptable CPD plans started to be made.
As working from home, and flexible working, are more of a norm now and firms have adapted well to them, we believe that firms have now learnt from what didn’t work in terms of remote and hybrid CPD in the past. Therefore, CPD for lawyers can continue to be prioritised just as much as it was before the pandemic, with some changes which we’ve detailed below:
More Accessible CPD For Law Professionals
As we stated above, COVID-19 caused disruption to many law firms. However, as Lawyers Weekly point out, such disruptions have also resulted in new opportunities, such as CPD for legal professionals becoming more accessible from home.
Most seminars and workshops offered by professional organisations in law are still held online, resulting in many lawyers “embracing a whole now format of learning”, whereby they can take interactive online courses instead of a full one day in-person workshop. Even lawyers in the most remote areas can access CPD of the highest quality, even presentations by speakers and experts who are so high-profile that they were previously only available at large conferences in capital cities.
Remote Law CPD
In a similar vein to the above point, a recent survey found that two thirds of law firms say that this increase in remote, digital learning, will continue beyond the pandemic. However, we’ve seen how remote working’s led many workers to struggle to separate their home lives from their working lives. One should take steps to stop this from happening with CPD, so lawyers don’t feel incumbered by how CPD infringes on their own time and therefore resent CPD – a quarter of law firms stated in the survey that their staff have “no time” for legal training during the working day, and therefore have to complete training in their own time if at all.
On the other hand, remote learning does have its benefits, if used skilfully to allow for a bite-sized but regular learning schedule. For instance, Rita McGucken stated that her firm used remote learning to provide a “huge online content library” for training purposes. She stated that this library put her firm “in a good position” even before the onset of the pandemic. Other training providers also split up their training into half-day sessions, or sessions of a couple of hours, as they were held remotely and full-day in-person conferences were unnecessary. Ms McGucken stated that this method of bitesize online learning helped lawyers “learn much more” as it’s “more effective than a full-day data dump”.
Overall, the pandemic showed many law firms the value of remote learning. It gives lawyers more time to learn in-between other duties, without having to take an entire day out to attend a conference and be overloaded with information that they may not be able to fully retain. As law firms therefore hope to continue benefitting from this, we see online content libraries becoming a norm.
Are you in charge of organising CPD for law professionals? Do you want your own online library of training videos to be produced for your website or members’ portal? Email firstname.lastname@example.org today or contact us via our form here. We can allow for effective bitesize learning within your organisation.
Technology in Law CPD
Technology has transformed the area of law considerably. For instance, it’s allowed lawyers to deliver enhanced services to clients. Additionally, it’s made legal information easier to obtain.
Lawyers Weekly suggests that, as technology has led to such developments and will continue to lead to even more, it may become a mandatory learning area. This is necessary as there are extreme challenges that come with technology – lawyers complete work that’s incredibly sensitive and should remain private. They must therefore complete some form of CPD that helps them gain or improve on cybersecurity skills.
This is already being implemented in the US, with some states already including mandatory technology training in lawyers’ annual CPD requirements. We expect that the UK won’t be far behind.
Under the most recent CPD change enacted from November 2016, 52% of surveyed law firms are reportedly completing “about the same amount” of training. However, with the changes brought about by the pandemic resulting in an increasing amount of firms introducing digital learning, we believe that flexible, personalised forms of CPD will continue to be preferred. It’ll also allow lawyers to continue to vocalise their learning needs, as this will make future CPD much more relevant for them.