We recently caught up with Amanda Hamilton from NALP to discover how and why should you keep up with your CPD as a Paralegal. This is what she said:
“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 CPD (Continuing Professional Development) requirements for their members. In addition, most employers take great heed in measuring the standard of professionalism of their employees by their CPD. Many will contribute to CPD plans for their staff.
CPD is important for both employee and employer. It helps the employee keep up with their careers and from an employer’s viewpoint, ensures that all staff are engaged and benefitting the business by ensuring that standards are maintained.
The importance of continuing your professional development cannot be emphasised enough, no matter in which environment you are working. Even more so if you are working within the legal services profession. CPD is vital because of the nature of the sector, since law changes so rapidly. It is the nature of our English Legal System to be adaptable to both moral and social change.
Changes to how the courts view our laws are happening behind the scenes almost as we speak. This is not just referring to new Acts of Parliament, but to case law precedent in the Courts. This is why it’s so important to keep up with it.
Working as a paralegal within a law firm framework means that you probably have easy access to many more search facilities, such as legal publications and online legal search engines, than you would do if you are working in-house in a company or, indeed, if you are a Paralegal practitioner working for yourself.
Even so, there is no excuse for not keeping up with new law, cases, practice directions and processes. There are also plenty of online CPD accredited short courses that will count towards your annual requirements.
At the very least, it just requires you to subscribe to a legal publication: one that reports on cases in the courts and has articles that are law related. If you specialise in one particular area of law, there are numerous specific publications to choose from. For example, if you are involved in property or conveyancing transactions, then ‘Today’s Conveyancer’ may be appropriate. Another example could be ‘PI Brief’ specialising in law and articles relating to personal injury.
In addition, there are many general publications such as The Law Society Gazette, New Law Journal, Lawyer Monthly, The Lawyer and The Barrister which cover many different varying articles that are law related, in addition to reporting on cases in the courts.
So what is regarded as CPD?
Sometimes, what is accepted as CPD will depend on the individual body or organisation that requires it for members or employees. For example, NALP will accept confirmation that a member has researched articles and reported cases for a particular ongoing case. As long as there is confirmation from a supervisor as to the length of time it has taken. A general rule of thumb is that for every hour studied, it is one unit of CPD.
There are, however, plenty of ‘CPD Accredited’ courses available. For example the Practical Paralegal Skills Course delivered through NPC (National Paralegal College) is CPD accredited and carries 12 CPD points. The same College offers ‘Legal Skills in Drafting or Negotiating’ and these offer 6 CPD points each.
In essence, once qualified as a professional, whether in medicine or law, what makes you a ‘professional’ is dependent on how well you keep up with innovative laws or practices within your chosen profession.
Many professional bodies will only accept degrees or qualifications that have been completed within a fixed period of time. For example, NALP will only accept applications for Fellow Membership from an applicant who has graduated within seven years of the application, unless the applicant can provide evidence that they have been working within the sector and have kept up with their CPD since graduation.
So, to sum up: if you are a professional paralegal ensure that you maintain your knowledge about law and practice as best you can. Especially so if you are a specialist in a particular subject. Subscribe to at least one specialist publication and keep your practice knowledge up to date by taking CPD accredited courses along the way. Continuing to develop skills and constant learning is the key to success as a professional.”
Who is Amanda Hamilton?
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.
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