Friday, 17 August 2012

Finding Legal CPD Courses

It's about the communication, stupid!
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is an essential part of a Knowledge Management strategy. When the process is working properly it not only ensures that an individual is up to date in specialist areas of their practice but also it means that they take the information back to their departments. Whether the information is presented verbally at meetings, or written about in a piece of knowhow, incorporated into a precedent etc, it seeps into the fabric of the firm’s knowledge and is turned into profit. This is crucial given the initial expense – there has to be a return on this investment.

This process is important so to see how it works for us I went back to the beginning. How do the lawyers find out what courses are available?

Like most firms we have a single person in each department who is responsible for the CPD in their department. They manage the training budget, attend Learning & Development meetings, encourage the filling in of feedback forms – in line with the Lexcel Accreditation requirements and generally take an interest in building the firm’s CPD programme. This person will also send out regular emails to their department about courses, and in turn gets sent information by colleagues requesting to attend events.

It was this exchange of information that got me thinking. If everyone is signed up to different mailings, there is a risk that people could miss other courses of interest. As there are many legal course providers, it is possible to be overwhelmed by choice. There are a number of solutions to this:

1.    Preferred suppliers – we do have a couple of preferred external providers so they will be automatically first choice when organising seminars. This is under constant review and is where the feedback forms are really important
2.    Subscription services – according to the needs of the individual department, we take webinar subscriptions. This is a very cost effective way of providing CPD to large departments. Again this is reviewed annually to ensure that people are happy with the provider
3.    Specialist memberships – lawyers will tend to be members of other organisations and they will provide courses of interest and relevance to members, eg, STEP, APIL. As in the library world, members will be influential in ensuring value for money interesting courses
4.    Journal Subscriptions – journals such as SJ, PLC, Practical Lawyer etc provide quizzes which lead to CPD points. Publishers also provide podcasts and seminars

I looked at a number of websites which are useful in collating all the different suppliers. I was quite disappointed to find that they don’t have RSS feeds, alerts or other ‘push’ technologies to tell lawyers automatically what is coming up. Instead you have to actively go and look which seems really old fashioned in this ‘we have an app for that’ world. For reference I have included the sites below:

A fully searchable list, webinars included. BPP and CLT don’t seem to be there

A searchable list, which seems complete

No longer serving lawyers. Clearly a difficult thing to do!

A list of providers, probably not that helpful unless you are after a specialist area of law

Searchable or browsable database of courses. I wasn’t entirely convinced this database is very full

In the end it really does come down to the lawyer being switched on to their area of specialism and most of them are very good at that. This is where the knowledge of a law firm comes from; enthusiastic engaged professionals transmitting their specialised knowledge to other people within their firms. HR just wishes they’d fill in their feedback forms!

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