New era for CPD

Dr Vanessa Davies explains how and why the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme for established barristers is changing in January

A constant commitment to update knowledge and skills is a hallmark of being a professional. In the words of Alistair Hodge, advocacy trainer at Inner Temple:

‘As with any other profession, the Bar must deliver, and be seen to be delivering, the best service to its clients and only the continual refreshing of skills and knowledge can achieve this.’

We at the Bar Standards Board (BSB) believe that CPD is not just about keeping up-to-date with changes in the law – although that is obviously vital. As your career or practice develops, so do your other developmental needs. Under the old CPD scheme, some types of valid training needs were not recognised. For example, all barristers have a responsibility and a regulatory requirement to make sure that their practice is efficiently managed. This could and does give rise to a range of development needs such as management training or increased knowledge of financial management.

However, under the outgoing CPD scheme, you would not have been permitted to count this type of training towards your CPD. We think that was wrong. This is just one reason why…

Changes from January 2017

We believe our new scheme will be better for barristers and better for the public, whose interests we must have at the heart of everything that we do. Key improvements within the new CPD scheme include the following:

  • Giving you more control over what CPD you actually need and undertake. We believe that you are best placed to determine what professional development you need, not us as your regulator.
  • Switching the emphasis away from the amount of CPD undertaken to the relevance of learning and development. This is crucial. The outgoing CPD scheme required you to undertake 12 hours of CPD every year – four hours of which had to be with an accredited training provider. As long as this requirement was met within the old scheme, there was very little consideration given to whether or not the CPD activity you had undertaken was actually relevant to your practice.
  • Permitting a much wider range of learning and development activities to count as CPD. A much wider range of learning activities may now count as CPD, such as podcasts, reading and delivering training. The key consideration is whether or not the activity is relevant to your learning objectives. We think this new flexibility better reflects and respects the type of learning and development that many of you have been undertaking over the years, but until now you have been unable to include and record within your formal CPD.
  • Reducing complexity, providing regulatory value for money and allowing the BSB to take a much lighter touch approach to enforcement. By placing more onus on your responsibility to complete and choose relevant CPD, the new scheme removes the need for much of the bureaucracy associated with the old scheme.

We intend to work closely with the profession. We want to support you and to help you comply. And importantly, we intend to use disciplinary sanctions only as a last resort.

The four Rs

There are four stages of the new CPD scheme. These are explained briefly below and shown within the graphic (see right):

  • Review. You should review your previous CPD activity and then prepare a written CPD plan setting out your learning objectives for the year ahead. We’d then expect you to amend and update your plan as priorities and training opportunities change during the year.
  • Record. You should keep a written record of your CPD activities undertaken during the year (and keep this for three years).
  • Reflect. Then you should reflect on your planned and completed CPD activities to assess whether or not your learning objectives have been met. You should keep a written record of that reflection, of any variation in your planned activities and in your assessment of your future learning objectives.
  • Report. Finally, you should make an annual declaration that CPD has been completed. This will be done as part of the annual authorisation to practise process.

Please refer to the BSB website for more detail on how the scheme will operate.

Helping you comply

I acknowledge that the new scheme may take barristers, and indeed the BSB, a little while to get used to. But I am confident that, with time, we will all see its advantages.

We have been developing the new scheme for over two years. There has been extensive consultation with the Bar, and a trial of the new scheme took place in 2015 involving 76 barristers. The model that we are adopting is also similar to those used in other professions.

My team and I have been travelling the country over the past few months to explain the new CPD scheme to as many of you as possible. Your feedback has enabled us to refine our guidance. The finalised guidance will be available on our website from December, together with some model plans and worked examples of the sort of records we are asking you to keep.

Our emphasis will always be on helping you to comply with the new scheme and not to issue immediate sanctions for failure. Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice and assistance: email cpdrecords@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

Contributor Dr Vanessa Davies, Director General of the Bar Standards Board

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Dr Vanessa Davies

Vanessa is Director General of the Bar Standards Board and a Bencher of Inner Temple. She is currently overseeing the Future Bar Training Programme, including the new CPD arrangements.