The Law Society, through its Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program, encourages all Alberta lawyers to develop a “reflective practice.” Reflective practice has become a much used and researched term in recent years and describes a more engaged method of self-assessment and reflection in assessing competence.
In completing their CPD plan and following through on it, lawyers are expected to reflect on their practice, including their skills to deliver the services required of their specialty; be critical of their knowledge, including assessing what is done well, deficiencies, areas for improvement and areas of new law or learning to acquire; and conduct self-reflection on their practice, values and aspirations. By completing these self-assessments when developing a CPD plan, lawyers should recognize areas for learning and growth that can be built into their life-long legal learning. Lawyers should ask themselves what skills and knowledge need improvement; if any ethical issues have arisen that should be explored; and what opportunities exist to access education to meet the lawyer’s CPD needs.
It is for this reason that, in order to meet the requirements of a CPD plan, lawyers must conduct a needs assessment in order to build their learning objectives and priorities for the year. Taking a reflective practice approach to CPD planning ensures that, as noted above, the program is not only of value to lawyers who may be struggling with their practice but supports and encourages all lawyers, even those with significant seniority and high knowledge and skill levels, to improve their competence in a way that best addresses their own personal practice needs
Part of the needs assessment requires a review of the previous year’s plan. Beginning in 2016, the CPD plan template includes space for this review. This is part of developing a “reflective practice”.
To ensure that the goal of enhancing lawyer competence in the delivery of legal services is met, it is necessary for a lawyer to plan their CPD activities in accordance with the Rules, implement those activities and then evaluate whether the activities undertaken in the past year were effective in improving and enhancing competence in the delivery of legal services.
In reviewing the previous year’s CPD Plan and activities, the following questions can assist the lawyer in their evaluation:
- What activities did I undertake pursuant to last year’s CPD Plan?
- Why did I select this activity and how will it help my practice?
- How did each CPD activity improve my competence as a lawyer?
- Did I meet my goals and objectives?
- Is further learning or professional development required in any of the areas identified?
- What will be carried forward to my future CPD Plan?
Lawyers should regularly assess the implementation of their CPD goals throughout the year. Quarterly reviews are a good start. Lawyers should ask:
- How am I doing with implementing the activities identified in my CPD Plan?
- Were the activities selected beneficial?
- Did the activities selected have the intended effect, tangible or intangible?
- Did the activities selected have unintended consequences, positive or negative?
- Am I meeting my CPD goals as set out in my CPD Plan?
- How are the activities I am engaged in enhancing my competence and the quality of legal services that I deliver to my clients?
Goal setting with measurable outcomes can assist in the above process. It is important, in the development of the CPD plan to plan, implement, evaluate and reflect.
For this reason, the new CPD plan template provides room for reflection. Though the plan itself locks in upon declaration, it is accessible year-round. The reflection area is not locked in and allows you to reflect on your progress, any learnings undertaken, the success of your plan and potential changes to make your plan more effective or beneficial to maintaining, developing and improving competence. Within the reflection area for each competency, you can amend your goals and objectives and identify additional activities to undertake and assess the value of those already undertaken during the year.
The self-assessment and reflection portion of the CPD program is ongoing throughout the year and over the course of your legal career.