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