New Zealand Law Society - Benefits of CPD self-auditing

Benefits of CPD self-auditing

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The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme provides for firms that meet certain criteria to apply for self-auditing status.

Self-auditing firms monitor their employees’ compliance with the CPD Rules. The status is given to firms who can:

  • demonstrate they have effective policies and procedures in place to ensure all lawyers comply with the rules;
  • appoint a lawyer as CPD officer; and
  • effectively monitor and review their CPD policies and programmes.

From a business point of view, staying abreast of professional learning is essential. We live in a knowledge-based economy, but how we apply knowledge is increasingly fluid, morphing as technologies and approaches to best practice and clients demands change.

It has become crucial that firms employ those who can be adaptive and apply new knowledge quickly. Therefore training becomes an essential part of the successful law firm. Staying competitive means constantly up-skilling.

In 2014 a number of firms became self-auditing and found that, while involving worthwhile investment, maintaining connections with employees’ CPD programmes had several positive spinoffs. In May these firms were asked to comment on their perceptions of the benefits of becoming self-auditing.

Firms reflect on choosing self-audit status

"It seemed to be an obvious thing to do for us. We already had policies and procedures in place which showed our commitment to a learning culture so it was just a matter of aligning these with the new CPD requirements. Plus there was the additional incentive of our lawyers not needing to be audited.”

"As a larger firm we wanted to be proactive in the management of individual CPD.”

"Felt that focusing on developing expertise through targeted CPD would be of benefit and protect our firm’s brand.”

"As a large firm it seemed to make sense to avoid duplication of providing materials to the NZLS, when we could manage and create our own system to suit our firm.”

Many firms found that in applying a more learning focused culture to their business practices they increased productivity and operational efficiency.

What was done differently in implementing self-auditing status?

"We re-examined our entire business plan. We rewrote our business goals with learning outcomes in mind and, as a result, we discovered new questions to ask ourselves and new potential for utilising internal expertise. This practice was hugely beneficial for us.”

"Development planning was always a part of our appraisal system so it’s simply been a change or rather addition to how we record this information. It’s now recorded on our CPD portal as well as on appraisal documentation.”

"We changed how individuals select their professional development. We have also changed the level of formality in reporting back after courses and the like.”

"We aligned our current policies to meet the CPD Rules. This was an easy task but we took the opportunity to align how our performance management system looked.”

Professional development demand usually exceeds capacity so, given limits on resourcing, there is a need to align professional learning closely with identified business goals.

In adopting self-auditing status, firms have the ability to shape CPD programmes to be more responsive to identified needs. Equally, they can improve efficiency and costs by focusing on the critical areas of required development.

What have been the benefits and what has changed?

"Taking a slightly wider view of the CPD programme it has been the addition of reflections into our learning framework as these provide some embedding of learning once people have left their training sessions.”

"Using an in-house system for CPD requirements made us adopt a more distributive approach to employee appraisals. As a result we have saved a great deal of time on performance management conversations. Additionally our departments have a greater knowledge and ownership of their own performance levels and developmental needs.”

"Saw the immediate benefit of focusing the direction [of] the firm through learning. Clear and deliberate reasons for resourcing specific professional development could then be justified.”

"We will know more about if professional development is matching our required growth areas. We are interested to know how people are reflecting on their work.”

"We will know more after completing a full year however our expectations are that we will find the regularity of our CPD updates (three monthly) easier to manage than annually as it has been in the past.”

"Helped formalise our expectations around how we share our professional learning. It is now a requirement of attending any outside course that individuals feed back to their department and our management team.”

Deliberately focusing on how employees reflect, share and develop can give clarity to performance issues and goal attainment. Indeed, there are three main benefits of aligning individual learning with business goals:

Increasing profit margins

Employees’ development is connected directly to KPIs. Employees understand the importance of their growing capacity to the realisation of business goals.

Reducing retention issues

Employees are engaged in adding value to the firm through sharing knowledge. Employees take ownership of areas of expertise and feel valued as the resident “expert”. Sharing knowledge can help sustain and embed knowledge and lessen succession planning issues.

Efficiency of allocating resourcing to meet business targets

Employees’ learning impacts quicker on attaining business goals.

What were the challenges?

"This was mainly an IT challenge for us as we’ve developed and built our own CPD portal. Learning discussions were already integrated into our appraisal system so it was more of an administrative addition to how these are being recorded.”

"Making policies and procedures simple but thorough whilst meeting all of the NZLS requirements.”

"The challenges for us tend to be mainly administrative in nature as all of our staff easily attend more than 10 hours of learning activities in any given year.”

"Keeping to the internal auditing guidelines we have set for ourselves. In relation to the wider CPD programme we need to ensure team members do not focus on only 10 hours as a target. We also need to be clear about what can and cannot be included towards CPD requirements.”

"Mostly around administrative requirements and ensuring that individuals are reminded about their internal requirements – sharing of CPD, making time for this investment and keeping people focused on the learning, rather than the 10 hours. Running effective study groups have been great but sometimes challenging to keep everyone focused on the task at hand.”

Investing in any new business approach takes time. Equally, this time – to develop new systems, training and any supporting resources – has to be weighed up against the long-term benefit to the business. Reflecting on 2014, these firms have clearly communicated the benefits of self-audit status.

Indeed, managing partners who bring professional learning goals into clear alignment with their business goals can create high performing employees, fully cognisant of the importance of building their capacity as learners and how this adds value to the firm.

To help your firm in implementing a self-auditing system you can refer to the CPD Rules 2013 and associated resources on the NZLS website. These can be found at

For any additional assistance in moving your firm towards self-audit status feel free to contact


Ken Trass is the New Zealand Law Society’s Professional Development Manager.

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