New Zealand Law Society - Reflecting on the CPD year that was

Reflecting on the CPD year that was

As the end of the current CPD year approaches (31 March 2022), it’s time to think critically about what you’ve learned over the last year and to start planning your next steps. Find out how you could identify your professional development needs and take your learning journey further.

Over the past two years all of us have been on a learning journey – learning to work in an entirely remote environment, learning to operate new systems and just learning how to survive during a pandemic.

That learning journey probably happened at pace, informally and was not really under your control. What is under your control when it comes to learning is fulfilling the continuing professional development (CPD) requirements that form a really important part of what it means to be a practising lawyer.

As the end of the current CPD year approaches (31 March 2022), it’s a good time to think critically about what you’ve learned over the last year and to start planning your next learning and development steps.

It’s also a good time to reflect on the challenges that the legal profession may face in the future and how planning and education can be used to mitigate those.

A movement to online learning

The last two years have seen unprecedented change. The adoption of digital solutions has been accelerated. Our audit data reflects this change in the way lawyers are participating in continuing professional development, with webinars, e-learning, and hybrid activities (a combination of online learning and in person learning) becoming more prevalent. Our changing environment, travel restrictions and snap lockdowns have made online learning a more reliable, and sometimes only available, option. While our physical world may have become smaller over the past two years, our virtual world has continued to expand, offering us opportunities to participate in, contribute to, and attend CPD activities all over the globe.

Covid-19: a transformative learning experience

Transformative learning is a term coined by Jack Mezirow who defined it as, “the process of becoming critically aware of how and why our assumptions have come to constrain the way we perceive.” He calls on us to question our understanding and feelings about the world to reformulate these assumptions. In doing so we can develop a more inclusive, discriminating, permeable and integrative perspective.

Mezirow’s transformative learning process consists of ten phases, taking us from a ‘disorienting dilemma,’ through to the development of a new perspective. It is a critically reflective exercise which can lead to fundamentally changing what we do and why we do it. Reflecting in this way can help us to reframe; to take a fresh look at problems and investigate them from different angles.

Mezirow’s phases:

  1. Disorienting dilemma
  2. Self-examination
  3. Sense of alienation
  4. Relating discontent to others
  5. Explaining options of new behaviour
  6. Building confidence in new ways
  7. Planning a course of action
  8. Knowledge to implement plans
  9. Experimenting with new roles
  10. Reintegration.

If we consider the Covid-19 pandemic as our ‘disorienting dilemma’, by working our way through Mezirow’s phases we can move from our initial shock to being able to move forward into our new normal because our perspective has changed.

A good example has been learning to work from home which perhaps pre-Covid you hadn’t considered was possible.

The many opportunities CPD offers

The great thing about our CPD scheme is that its intention is to develop lawyers holistically. It recognises that while it’s important that lawyers are upskilling in their understanding of the law and the legal frameworks within which they work, this doesn’t need to be a lawyer’s sole professional development focus.

Many lawyers over the last two years will have spent time learning or perfecting the necessary expertise to be able to engage effectively in online learning and remote working. Through using these new skills, while building competence and confidence you may also identify further learning needs.

But it’s not just through your own learning that you can achieve CPD hours. You can also gain those through teaching others. For example, you may wish to develop your IT skills as well as your communication skills by creating and presenting a webinar for your team. As long as the webinar aligns with your learning needs and meets the definition of activities in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Ongoing Legal Education–Continuing Professional Development) Rules 2013, then it might be able to count towards your CPD requirements.

Developing learning needs through reflection

Reflection is a powerful tool. It allows us to consider the way that things are and the way that we want them to be, and to connect the dots. As we look forward to the 2022/23 CPD year, it’s a good opportunity to reflect, and to start developing your plan and record (CPDPR) by deciding on your learning needs for the coming CPD year.

Reflecting on your previous year’s CPDPR and considering the further learning needs you thought you could take, or the gaps that remained following your learning activities is one way you might identify new learning needs.

Reflecting on your professional path, where you would like to be in a year, five years, or ten years’ time, and how you get there is another way to develop learning needs. Thinking about the steps that are needed to achieve your goals can allow you to identify the skills and knowledge you need to develop to meet your career targets. This knowledge and skill acquisition could then form part of your learning needs for your CPDPR.

Learning needs could also be developed by reflecting on what is pertinent in relation to the profession at this time – what amendments or changes have been made to the law within which you practise? How might the changing environment over the next year, as we continue to navigate the impacts of Covid-19, affect you and your practise?

Your continuing professional development journey is unique, it’s an opportunity to develop yourself, your skills, and your knowledge. Taking the time to critically reflect will help you to get the most out of your professional development investment.

The current CPD year will end on 31 March 2022, and CPD declarations are due within five working days of that date. You can make your CPD declaration online at any time once you have met your requirements. The final day to make your 2021/22 CPD declaration on time is 7 April 2022.

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