Have you got your Personal Development Plan in place?

 In Gill's Blog

Disclaimer: LawSkills provides training for the legal industry and does not provide legal advice to members of the public. For help or guidance please seek the services of a qualified practitioner.

All solicitors need to have a personal development plan (PDP) since the training rules changed in November 2018. Out went the 16 hours of CPD per annum and in came a more reflective approach to career competence.

personal development plan

The idea behind the PDP is to take a longer look at what competencies are required to be strengthened to maintain your ability to practice and yet stretch you as a person in your career. For example, the SRA statement of competence sets a threshold standard of knowledge for the newly qualified solicitor but also sets out skills and competence to reach higher levels of practice skill to reflect experience and moves towards senior levels in a firm.

It is my experience that many individuals and firms still talk about completing 16 hours of CPD per annum when this is no longer the relevant measure of competence. It is not about the volume (sometimes you may need to undertake more or less hours) it is about the quality and relevance of the continuing professional development.

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This is a good time to take stock of where you are with PDPs in your firm since the Legal Service Board is looking to make changes to the competence framework by perhaps introducing 5 yearly testing. Consultations are on-going in this respect.

The idea behind the PDP is to take a longer look at what competencies are required to be strengthened to maintain your ability to practice and yet stretch you as a person in your career. For example, the SRA statement of competence sets a threshold standard of knowledge for the newly qualified solicitor but also sets out skills and competence to reach higher levels of practice skill to reflect experience and moves towards senior levels in a firm.
It is my experience that many individuals and firms still talk about completing 16 hours of CPD per annum when this is no longer the relevant measure of competence. It is not about the volume (sometimes you may need to undertake more or less hours) it is about the quality and relevance of the continuing professional development.
This is a good time to take stock of where you are with PDPs in your firm since the Legal Service Board is looking to make changes to the competence framework by perhaps introducing 5 yearly testing. Consultations are on-going in this respect.

What is a personal development plan?

It is a means of recording thoughts about what a person needs to be doing in order to progress. It can be as simple as answering a few questions like:

  1. What plans do I have for my personal development?
  2. What steps have I taken to action the plans?
  3. From whom have I received help on these plans?
  4. What have I learned from these actions?
  5. What have I learned about my ability to plan and take action?

The SRA has a Template for recording PDPs

It includes headings as follows:

  • What do I want/need to learn?
  • What will I do to achieve this?
  • What resources or support will I need?
  • What will my success criteria be?
  • Target dates for receive and completion

What do you want/need to learn?

What you want to learn may well differ from what you need to learn. For example you may want to achieve a qualification which would enhance your CV such as the STEP qualification and this could take you two or more years. Whilst this might be beneficial to your firm they might need you to enhance other skills, such as being an effective team leader, in order to progress the firm’s business plan. A discussion with your line manager will determine which, if any may be progressed within a particular PDP.

What will I do to achieve this?

This is where you will need to think about how you like to learn and what might be the appropriate blend of learning. For example, if you need to improve your leadership skills you might watch LawSkills webinar on ‘Leading a remote team’; organize a one-on-one session with an effective team leader in your firm to discuss the art of leadership; you might read some management books on leadership and use a coach to help put into practice what you have learned.

What resources or support will I need?

Time, money and support from a line manager are likely resources. It does not have to be costly in cash to achieve your goal – the cost of a webinar and a few books – but it can take time of both your self and your line manager or coach. It is best to be clear about resources so that you are not inhibited from achieving your goals.

What will my success criteria be?

It is important at the start to visualize what success will look like so that you know if you have achieved it. In the example of leading a team it might be a question of conducting an initial survey of your team about how they see your leadership skills now and conducting another survey when you have undertaking your learning and put it into practice to see if it has made the difference you sought.

Target dates for review and completion

There is no particular need to set up completion within the practicing year – your plan may extend beyond that. But it is important to keep any plan on track and that need review dates and a completion date to go in your diary. In some firms, the review dates could be when you have your appraisal for example.

Evaluation

At the completion date look back at what you did and why and reflect on what you learned from this. You may have found you liked one method of learning over another. You may have learned some wisdom for life; you may have found some aspects uncomfortable, explore why. These reflections will help you to build on what you have learnt and consider any further action which may now arise. Record these thoughts as well to have alongside your PDP.

For more help in using PDPs as an individual or in your firm give me a call on 01962 776442 or drop me an email to gill.steel@lawskills.co.uk. I can also act as a coach to those needing that type of support to achieve their goals.

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