Continuing competence? Getting started… (1)

It’s crept up on us, but law firms must now move away from the traditional strict CPD structure based on time spent and towards a new era of needs-based learning. The old system won’t officially cease until November 2016, but you need to get yourself organised for the new system now.

If you want to learn more about the new system, have a read here.

But what does this mean for you? How can you change mindsets and make sure that you get the training and new knowledge that you need?

Goals: white board

This is the first of two blog posts on the new regime and how you, as an individual, can make sure that you are getting the learning opportunities which you need, even if your firm doesn’t have a big budget to spend on you. If you want to make sure you receive/read every post in the series, you can either follow this blog or sign up for my monthly “busy-person’s round-up”, which will summarise all my blog posts and a few other interesting bits every four weeks.

What is the new regime?

The new regime requires you to:

  1. analyse your learning needs for your role, discuss them with your firm, and
  2. create a tailored learning plan to ensure that those learning needs are met.

You can meet those learning needs in lots of different ways, including:

  • coaching and mentoring,
  • workshadowing,
  • face-to-face and online courses, and
  • research, teaching and writing for publications.

Where should you start?

Firstly, I recommend that you read up on some of the alternative ways of learning, creating and sharing knowledge, and sparking innovation. Other industries have learnt a lot recently about what works and what doesn’t. You may be surprised at what you learn.

I suggest that you start with “Deep Smarts” by D Leonard et al, and, especially if you are looking at your own training needs, “Know your Value” by M Cope.

Secondly, you need to analyse your training/learning needs.

To do this, I recommend that you keep a reflective learning diary for at least a month. Get yourself a new notebook, or create a new document/note/file for audio/video on your tablet/phone.

If you would like a template for a reflective learning diary, click here.

At the end of each day (maybe on the train home?) scribble/record a few notes about what went well and what was difficult that day and what you think might improve your skills and make you more attractive to clients and better at your job.

Write a few lines under the following headings:

  1. What noteable thing occurred today? What knowledge did I use and need?
  2. What do I think about the event? How did it make me feel?
  3. What do I need to do to improve the outcome next time? What knowledge or skills do I need to improve?
  4. Where will I find these resources? What types of learning can help me fill the gaps?
  5. What will I do differently next time?

Nearly missed a court deadline? Was it lack of knowledge about the importance of the deadline, struggling with time/file management skills, lack of understanding of your case management system, poor checklists/processes, confusion/mis-communication between yourself and another employee?

Don’t just focus on the negative. Did something go really well? What knowledge do you have in abundance, which perhaps you could share with others? It doesn’t matter if you are a junior member of staff, lots of us have developed particular skills or knowledge which are worth sharing with others. That could be sharing with people at your firm or you could develop a seminar for clients and share your knowledge with them. Use something you do well to develop a new skill (presentations, writing, organising events, marketing, networking). Or build on an area where you are knowledgeable, to develop a valuable deeper understanding.

If you went to a training event or undertook some form of learning, think about how it made you feel and how well it worked for you. You need to identify what methods of learning suit you best. Some people struggle with online courses but thrive with work-shadowing. Get efficient and focus on what suits you.

Be honest with yourself. Sometimes it is difficult to be honest about the reasons things happen as they do, especially when things go wrong, and it can help to write a few lines on the day of the event, but also to come back to the diary after a month and make additional notes. At this point you could also reflect on any common themes that you see. For example, was there 1 incident that you put down to poor time management but lots of difficulties working with your firm’s IT? Maybe on further reflection you are being hard on yourself blaming your time management on that occasion? Maybe you need more help with the case management system? Are you a great lawyer, but have a blind spot in one area of law or are you terrible at sharing what you know?

Once you have identified the knowledge, both expertise and gaps, you need to think about what you are going to do now: what will you do to plug gaps in knowledge, what will you do to exploit/build on areas of expertise?

Your ideas for resources and learning to fill the gaps could be anything: improving your understanding of your existing area of law, presentation and negotiation skills, new complementary skills (mediation? a new area of law?), more specialist legal training, understanding process management, understanding law firm metrics, management and profitability. Don’t limit the possibilities for learning at this stage. If you have read the books I suggested at the beginning, hopefully you will be able to be more creative about your opportunities and your list won’t just say “Go on a course on A, B & C” 🙂

Depending on what occurs that month, you should end up with a big list of knowledge and skills for improvement and exploitation.

Next time we will look at improving that list and what to do with it. Don’t miss the next post. Sign up to the news/round-up here, and follow the blog (top right button).


Link to the next continuing competence article here.

And if you need a spot of practical and useful training in Knowledge creation and management, come along to one of my regular intensive one-day workshops in London. More info here.

Or if your firm needs training or advice on the new regime, let me know.

And here’s that free download again 🙂



About knowledge4lawyers

I am a lawyer and a Knowledge Management expert. Through The Knowledge Business I help law firms improve their efficiency and profitability through knowledge services - consultancy, training and implementation help.
This entry was posted in Personal Knowledge Management, Training and learning and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Continuing competence? Getting started… (1)

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