Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is usually conceived as a planned and formulated process for individual members of professional associations. This chapter, by contrast, examines professional learning as a collective and distributed process, taking a whole firm, as the unit of analysis. Cultural Historical Activity Theory is used to work with a law firm. The results show inherent tensions and contradiction in a process of knowledge sharing and practice improvement.
England and Wales has 116000 solicitorsb*, all of whom are regulated. They are represented by their professional association, the Law Society. As one of the original three professions, practising solicitors find themselves highly regulated by their professional body in all aspects of their work. Under the Solicitors Act 1974 any solicitor who is employed in the provision of legal services is required to hold a practising certificate and the Society has statutory powers to monitor compliance. There are a range of rules that relate to practice and professional conduct. CPD, since 1985, has been compulsory with solicitors being encouraged to take responsibility for their own professional development. The requirement is for a minimum of 16 hours of CPD per year; of which at least 25 per cent must consist of participation in accredited training courses. CPD operates on an annual cycle with each solicitor returning a completed training record, an example of which is shown at Figure 1.
Sample training record for solicitors
Key Terms in this Chapter
Law Firms: The organisation of the delivery of legal services.
Continuing Professional Development: A learning process for professionally qualified workers.
Legal Profession: Those qualified by a professional association to practice the delivery of legal services.
Strategic Client Learning: A team approach to identifying key clients, mapping and evaluating the current relationship before setting goals for action. Key incidents with the client are logged for learning and knowledge sharing.
Co-Configuration: An ongoing learning process between organisation and their customers where interactions provide opportunities for knowledge generation.
Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT): The study of collective activity system of the firm, in a relevant and practical way so that interventions made contribute to the construction of new meanings which in turn lead towards greater understanding of the system.
Collective CPD: The creation of knowledge through personal learning which is shared and distributed across divisional boundaries.