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CPD for new lawyers

14 July 08

How the Society is developing CPD training specifically for the needs of recently qualified solicitors

by Collette Paterson

“What about giving new lawyers specific CPD?”

This was one of the first questions the Education & Training Department asked itself as part of its plan for engaging and supporting newly qualified solicitors. Thus the New Lawyers’ Engagement Strategy, with the aim of supporting students of law through the various stages of legal education, and solicitors up to five years’ PQE, includes an objective “to assist in ensuring continuing competence and ongoing development by providing tailored learning opportunities to qualified new lawyers”.

Thinking about tailored CPD as a tool to engage newly qualified solicitors came at a time when the Society was addressing overall policy in relation to solicitors’ CPD. Fast forward almost two years, and one of the possibilities we’re looking at is extending CPD from 20 to 40 hours. But far from simply doubling the number of hours required of practitioners, there is likely to be an expansion of those activities which actually qualify for CPD. This was an opportune time to be thinking also about how to deliver CPD in a way that optimises results for different categories of solicitors, and particularly those new to the profession.

Qualifying does not simply mean knowing all there is to know about the law. Of course there are specific legal training needs, but equally there is the type of training you refresh throughout your practising life (e.g. “introduction to basic networking”, “advanced networking”, and “top tips for partners, for even better networking”), and in February this year we launched a pilot scheme focusing on soft skills, something the Scottish Young Lawyers Association had lobbied for.

A number of external organisations approached us with a view to collaborating when we trailed CPD for new lawyers as a concept. It evolved from that into a brand under which targeted training for this group could come together – involving discussions between the Society, advocates and the Scottish Legal Aid Board in the first instance, on a diverse range of topics, including “Instructing Advocates”, from the Ampersand Stable.

This approach has allowed the Society and SYLA to continue to work towards becoming central portals of information. Using various communication tools available to us generally, such as the e-bulletin, and new tools designed specifically to connect with new lawyers, we marketed and event-managed the courses. The numbers attending the pilot sessions suggest that our perceptions of there being a gap in the market were correct, and that plans for launching a broader programme in October this year will be well received.

In addition to helping answer questions such as “How do I instruct advocates?”, and “Should I become dual qualified?”, we are now developing further topics to help new lawyers in their careers – we are speaking to LawCare and SLAB, for example, which have their own strategies for targeting new lawyers – and it is our intention to continue to involve others. If you are planning training activities for trainee solicitors and new lawyers in the next CPD year, or you simply want to find out more, email newlawyers@lawscot.org.uk or educating@syla.co.uk

Collette Paterson, New Lawyers’ Coordinator, Law Society of Scotlandd