CPD Training for Paralegals

CPD Training for Paralegals

12 Jul 2021

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With the paralegal profession emerging as the fastest growing in the legal sector, it’s never been more important to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Paralegals are people who work together with solicitors and barristers, aiding them in their legal practice. This article will provide a brief introduction to CPD for Paralegals, types of CPD training available, as well as outline the various industry requirements.

CPD training in the Paralegal Sector

Whether it be through organising case files, dealing with clients, compiling litigation or legal research, all paralegals, no matter what stage of their career they are in, need to be pursuing professional development opportunities. Continuing Professional Development, or CPD, is defined as the maintenance and enhancement of a lawyer or paralegal's professional knowledge, skills, attitudes and professionalism throughout an individual's career.

CPD training for Paralegals should help to provide knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that they need to have to perform effectively and competently in their role and to meet the expectations placed on them by their employers, colleagues and clients. CPD is a positive tool that benefits both lawyers and paralegals, and is an essential component of the commitment they make to the public to practise law or provide legal services competently and ethically.

Most professionals across most sectors in the UK will be governed by professional membership bodies or regulators. Every sector-specific professional membership body (such as NALP for the Paralegal sector) will have Continuing Professional Development requirements for their members.

The Importance of Continuing Professional Development

The importance of CPD training for Paralegals cannot be emphasised enough, no matter in which environment you are working, and especially working within certain professions such as legal services. For instance, The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) states that Continuing Professional Development for Paralegals helps ‘To maintain, improve and extend the skills and qualities necessary for the proper performance of professional and legal duties and to ensure confidence in the professionalism and competence of its members.

It is essential that legal practitioners sustain and enhance their knowledge and skills so that their clients, the legal profession and the wider public can be assured of their ongoing competency. Legislation, regulatory requirements, working methods and technology all develop quickly. Whilst it is acknowledged that a certain amount of learning can be achieved ‘on the job’, it is widely recognised that regular formal education and training is necessary to supplement and enhance such learning.

The requirements of being a Paralegal often include skills and knowledge that are not often formally taught in legal education and training e.g. certain ethical behaviours and client care skills, which may become relevant during their working lives.

What would qualify as CPD training for Paralegals?

Continual Professional Development (CPD) is any relevant and valid education or training by a Paralegal that supports the identification of individual development needs and improves professional practice. Sometimes, what is accepted as CPD will depend on the individual body or organisation that requires it for members or employees. The CPD criteria outlined below have been designed to achieve the following objectives:

  • Help Paralegals to identify areas of development which are relevant and support their careers
  • Assure the public that Paralegals are meeting high standards of development and approach their work in a responsible and ethical manner
  • Ensure a transparent and measurable approach to CPD
  • Provide Accredited Paralegals with a practical and flexible approach to professional development  

The range of learning activities recognised as CPD training for Paralegals is deliberately wide-ranging. As well as traditional methods like attending course, the following activities could be recognised for CPD purposes:

  • Attending a legal, managerial, administerial, professional enhancement or personal development seminar workshop or course
  • Attending any job-related training program, in-house or otherwise
  • Attending any educational or professional enhancement programme
  • Studying on any course relevant to the Paralegal’s career either by attendance or distance learning
  • Writing an article for the Newsletter or for a law or job related publication
  • Any personal or inter-personal development course or seminar
CPD for Paralegals

CPD Professional Bodies in the legal industry

  • Institute of Paralegals (IoP)
  • National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP)
  • Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) 

Institute of Paralegals

The Institute of Paralegals (IoP) is an international professional Institute for paralegals. The Institute is also one of the founding members of the Professional Paralegal Register (PPR). The PPR is the recognised overarching voluntary regulator for Paralegals in England, Wales and Internationally.

With the exception of Affiliate and Retired members, all of their members must undertake CPD. The standard requirement is 10 hours of CPD per year; Fellows require 12 hours CPD per year as do members holding Paralegal Practising Certificates, to comply with PPR regulations. Every member should maintain their individual CPD Record which clearly identifies the training and development that has been completed.

National Association of Licensed Paralegals

NALP is the longest running UK Membership Body for Paralegals and have dedicated over 30 years to promoting the status of Paralegal Professionals. NALP strives to ensure that its members are recognised as a key part of the legal profession by the quality of its qualifications and professional development. NALP Fellow Membership, Principal Fellow Membership and members with a Licence to Practice all require 12 hours CPD on annual renewal.

Despite the fact that CPD for Licence holders is 12 hours per year, these can be 'rolled' up in the case of a substantial course and can also be carried forward to the next membership period.

Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

CILEX is the professional association and governing body for over 21,000 Chartered Legal Executive Lawyers, other legal practitioners and paralegals. To ensure standards are upheld, it is a requirement of CILEX membership that CPD must be achieved and recorded annually. The CPD expectation varies for each membership level, with each having their own specific requirements.

  • Associates [ACILEX] are expected to demonstrate a minimum of 8 CPD hours each year with at least 4 hours related to their specialism plus 1 activity entry in professionalism
  • Graduates [GCILEX] need to undertake CPD that leads to 9 CPD entries, with at least 1 entry in professionalism
  • Fellows [FCILEX] need to undertake CPD that leads to 9 CPD entries, with at least 1 entry in professionalism
  • CILEX Conveyancing Practitioners and CILEX Probate Practitioners are expected to demonstrate 9 CPD entries with at least 1 entry in professionalism 

All members who are required to undertake CPD must complete one professionalism activity each year. Professionalism is directly linked to you as a Professional rather than your area of practice and must not be directly related to Law.

To keep up professionalism and retain CILEX membership status members are expected to register their Professional Development activity and record their CPD through the online portal. You should keep any CPD documentation for up to two years. CILEX selects a random 2.5% of members from each grade. If you are selected for sampling, you will be asked to provide additional documentation in support of what you have already entered.

CPD Non-Compliance or Failure to submit your required CPD hours will result in a loss of any benefits attached to your membership status. Please note that while many law firms and professional bodies recognize the importance of professional development and provide opportunities to facilitate that development, paralegal professionals must look outside their own firms and organisations to improve themselves as professionals and continue their education.

Paralegals CPD training

What is the difference between Outcomes and Hours-based CPD training?

Outcomes-focused CPD training seeks to measure outputs, i.e. the impact of learning on personal and professional development, and how this improves, for example, outcomes for clients. This means that, rather than specifying how many hours you completed on this activity, you need to decide what you want to learn from the activity.

The objective of this approach is to provide a measurement of genuine learning and professional improvement. This places greater responsibility on participants to set out their Continuing Professional Development requirements and demonstrate how their activities have affected their professional practice.

How to record your CPD effectively

Planning CPD training in advance means that it is more likely to be relevant to a Paralegal’s working life and area of practice. Individual Paralegals are responsible for identifying and planning their own CPD.

As well as recording your Continuing Professional Development for compliance reasons, it is also useful to produce your own Personal Development Plan (PDP) that reflects on your CPD training to date and focuses on your training needs in the longer term. While planning is important it should not only be done at the beginning of the year - as development needs change or situations develop, it is absolutely competent to continuously update your development plan.

Paralegals will typically be required to upload their CPD online each year to demonstrate that they have:

  • identified their learning needs
  • planned CPD activity to address those needs
  • undertaken relevant CPD
  • evaluated the CPD activity, what was learnt and how the lessons of the CPD activity can be put into practice

Accredited CPD Courses for Paralegals

By ensuring that a training course has been reviewed and approved by an established organisation, you can ensure that the training offered is robust and fit for purpose. One of the most common methods to do this is by ensuring that a CPD training course has been CPD accredited or CPD certified as being suitable for professional development purposes.

The CPD Certification Service was established in 1996, and is the largest and leading independent CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. Thousands of CPD training courses, events, e-learning programs, conferences, workshops and seminars are formally CPD certified by us every year.

We hope this article was helpful. If you are a Paralegal or legal professional who wants to gain more specialist knowledge, please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD courses, events and articles relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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For more information from CPD News Team, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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