Barristers are required to complete 45 hours of CPD in the first three years’ of practice, including at least nine hours of advocacy training and three hours of ethics (this is known as the ‘New Practitioners’ Programme’). This then decreases to 12 hours of CPD per year (the ‘Established Practitioners’ Programme).
That is less than the 16 hours per year required of solicitors but nevertheless amounts to a lot of hours to fill, so what courses are available? Time, cost, convenience and relevancy are all factors barristers will be taking into consideration when selecting options.
A vast array of means to gather the points now exists, including journal articles, CDs, traditional training courses, internet and even television-based formats. All in all, there are more than 600 BSB-accredited providers of CPD and, while some courses require attendance at a training centre, others can be followed from the comfort of your armchair.
Run your own course
Providing your own CPD course is another possibility. This has a useful spin-off effect in terms of networking, as well as being very handy for tenants within the chambers, who simply have to stroll along the corridor to gain their points.
Southampton chambers, 18 Carlton Crescent, provides between four and six seminars per year, covering recent updates on the law in a variety of areas, and can accommodate requests for seminars on a particular topic.
Chambers administrator Barbara Corbett says: “It’s great in terms of putting faces to names and faces to voices you have only heard on the phone.
“We hold them in chambers and so are limited to no more than 30 people per seminar, but if it is a particularly popular topic then we can hold them over two days. We have to get authorisation from the BSB first, and it is up to them how many CPD points are allocated.”
Out of London
There is no shortage of CPD-gathering opportunities, and being located outside of London is no drawback, says Ms Corbett.
“The western circuit runs quite a few courses, and there are some that people can fill out online. We have never had any problem over a lack of options, although some people have worried about running out of time before the 31 December deadline.”
Delia Venables, the well-known expert on law and the internet, provides five online training courses aimed at helping lawyers understand the types of internet-based resources that may be useful, from sourcing legal research material to marketing their services on the internet. These can be completed in your own time, and are relatively inexpensive. For example, a course in “advanced internet studies” provides five CPD points, costs £50 plus VAT, and covers selling legal services online, the range of subscription-based legal research services online, statutory, legislative and governmental resources, and the range of free case law and current awareness services available online. Alternatively, downloadable e-books are available in PDF format, also for £50 plus VAT and worth five CPD points, on such topics as “chambers management and the web”, “virtual chambers”, and “electronic resources in the Inns of Court Libraries”. Barristers answer a series of questions online about what they have read in order to gain their CPD points.
Some legal titles, including New Law Journal, offer an online CPD service. Barristers simply have to read articles and then answer a series of questions based on them. The advantages of these options are that they are inexpensive, informative, fast and can be completed at a time of your own choosing. CPD points may also be gained by teaching on undergraduate law courses and writing articles or practice notes.
Attending conferences run by organisations such as the Association for Victims of Medical Accidents, or the Association of Pension Lawyers is an excellent way to gain points while networking with colleagues in your field and catching up on the very latest developments and issues. Training providers such as Altior and the College of Law provide a vast range of courses at locations around the country on a variety of topics, some covering substantive law issue and others teaching “soft” skills such as more effective communication or management.
Watching television is another CPD-garnering method, if you switch on to Legal Network Television, the College of Law’s series of professional development and legal updating DVDs. If preferable, barristers can arrange with the College of Law to share the learning resource by joining in with a group of people to watch these DVDs and discuss any issues raised. Each programme is accompanied by training notes.
Those barristers on low incomes should be able to pick up bargains, as some of the specialist Bar Associations offer courses for reasonable rates. Reduced rates may also be available for new practitioners.
Barristers wishing to claim CPD points for an event that they attend should check in advance that it is accredited by the BSB, and they must sign the registration form produced by the event provider. Barristers must keep a record of their own attendance, which must also be detailed on the Record Card and sent back to the BSB by 31 January.