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Experts Explain The Importance of Continuing Professional Development

Throughout their careers, all barristers should undertake what is known as Continuing Professional Development (CPD), in order to develop their skills and knowledge and maintain a high standard of work beyond the walls of formal education.

CPD refers to the commitment to ongoing learning, by identifying opportunities where you can enhance skills and knowledge in specific areas. For barristers, this could include practice management, advocacy skills, working with clients, or developing further legal knowledge and skills.

With this in mind, the team at BPP University Law School has revealed the importance of undertaking CPD while working towards becoming a barrister, what the benefits of it are and which activities you can undertake to do so.

Why is undertaking Continuing Professional Development necessary for your career as a barrister and what are the requirements?

Continuing professional development (CPD) is key to your career as a barrister. You are required to undertake it by the Bar Standards Board (the BSB) in order to support your professional development and continuing competence in a highly skilled profession.

The BSB regulates barristers in England and Wales in the public interest and if you are a practising barrister, you are subject to the CPD requirements set out in Part 4, Section C of the BSB Handbook.

In your first three years of practice, you must complete a minimum of 45 hours of CPD, which includes at least 9 hours of advocacy training and at least 3 hours of ethics training. Barristers with more than 3 years of experience must undertake CPD every year, although the precise number of hours is not prescribed.

Barristers must also undertake CPD as they have to formally declare to the BSB each year that they have completed the requirements as part of the Authorisation to Practise process, and from time to time, the BSB will also carry out spot checks of CPD records.

Why does Continuing Professional Development benefit barristers?
Barristers are encouraged, via the CPD monitoring framework, to set aside time in their busy professional lives to commit to lifelong learning and development, as it has enormous benefits for their careers.

The practice is defined as “work undertaken over and above the normal commitments of a barrister, with a view of developing skills, knowledge and professional standards in order to keep up to date and maintain the highest standards of professional work”.

This sustained commitment to learning and development is hugely beneficial as its key to understanding your clients, the world around you, and the new trends and technology developments that challenge the status quo.  While technical legal knowledge is often developed and honed through the experience of practice and individual cases, CPD allows you to go above and beyond the daily challenges of practice.

Not only that but understanding the latest trends in the legal profession also puts barristers at a professional advantage, whether that be in Environmental, Social and Governance obligations, new developments in Legal Technology or the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion agenda. Equally, so-called ‘softer’ skills, such as resilience, communication, collaboration and conflict management, are increasingly important areas for learning and development.

What Activities Can Barristers Undertake That Will Count Towards CPD?

When planning your CPD, activities to consider could include:

  • taking part in formal face-to-face training courses, including university courses;

  • online courses;

  • listening to podcasts;

  • attending conferences;

  • taking part in seminars or webinars;

  • reading or research;

  • authorship and editing of published works of a professional nature.

  • presenting seminars, lectures and workshops; and

  • teaching a relevant legal course eg LLBs, LLMs, the GDL, BPTC, LPC or Diplomas in Law.

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