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Working in with CPD

07 March 2018

In the first of two vignettes, we’ll explore how a member of the profession has used CPD and the way it has fit in with their daily routine.

Here Antony Hamel, a sole practitioner from Dunedin, explains how he discovered that CPD has had some unintended beneficial consequences for him and his colleagues.

A connected community

“Like many sole practitioners, and dare I say it 50-odd year-old males, quite unintentionally my engagement in education had dropped off over the years. I had become entrenched in my daily practice – which invariably involved doing the same type of thing – and become an expert in my narrow field of practice.

To my mind, and given that the technical aspects of my chosen field seemed to have changed very little, I believed that just “keeping on top of it”, by reading Capital Letter or LawTalk was enough to keep me practising competently.

For me, this approach to learning made sense. After all, many of the face-to-face activities on offer seemed to be either far too general or specific, and not tailored to my needs or interests. Equally, investing in time away from the office for a course that wasn’t necessarily going to meet my needs, or was simply too costly, meant attending sometimes wasn’t a good decision. It would be fair to say that, for me, a level of frustration and complacency had crept in to my view of learning. So, like many of my colleagues, I just stopped going to the courses.

Then CPD came in. What my colleagues and I quickly hooked into was the flexibility of the programme meant we could drive our own focused CPD through developing a study group.

After taking this approach, we found almost immediately that we could focus our interests, and therefore investment, on what mattered to us. Learning became exciting again.

Our study group started with five of us in 2014 and now has six or seven regular participants. We meet once a month, with two or three topics set for each agenda. These topics are chosen either as they come to light, or as determined by the group as important issues to revisit to ensure we maintain a consistent and competent level of practice. The study group is given importance – it is not able to be interrupted – with the investment in our time together as valued as the topics of discussion.

We take turns in presenting to each other, meaning that we all take shared responsibility in ensuring our knowledge is up to date.

This approach has achieved a couple of things. Firstly, we now complete far more CPD than we did in the past and, most importantly, this CPD is tailored to our needs and focused – with each CPD topic often taking no more than 20-30 minutes to complete. As sole practitioners are often time poor, this efficiency has been an excellent benefit of these sessions.

We often use the CPD sessions to self-analyse our respective approaches to various problems and, as a result, quite often collectively unlock better ways of working. This, I believe, has quite helped us better serve the needs of the client.

Whereas in a larger forum we may not have all been afforded the opportunity to present, sharing the leadership of a relatively small group has enabled everyone’s voice and unearthed a great deal of expertise. This is perhaps an unintended consequence of the CPD study group.

Another benefit, which I think will resonate with many sole practitioners is, because we are trusting each other to lead our professional learning, we are now more connected with each other as professionals and people.

This has been formalised with some of the group now acting as each other’s power of attorney. Our contact through CPD has meant we know more about how we work and what we do – and this has enabled these relationships to be much more secure. Furthermore, these relationships have meant friendships have developed – we can now rely on each other for support for holidays and family emergencies and the like – almost like a partnership, without the economic ties.

The CPD study group, for me at least, has enabled more relevant and efficient learning opportunities as well as connecting me with my colleagues. Unintended or not, these have been real benefits of our study group.”

To find out how to form a CPD study group – see our resources at www.lawsociety.org.nz/cpd

Last updated on the 7th March 2018