Solicitors should forget about “perfection”, City training chief says

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17 December 2015

City of London

Hogan Lovells: one of the first big firms to opt into new regime

Solicitors should abandon the concept of “perfection” and concentrate instead on improving their performance, a City training chief has said.

Viola Joseph, solicitor and legal learning leader at Hogan Lovells, said the firm was one of the first big practices to opt into the new CPD regime introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in April this year.

“The new CPD requirements are not easier, but they are much more relevant to how lawyers learn and what they are trying to achieve,” Ms Joseph said.

“I think the biggest change is implicit and not mentioned in the rules. It’s a change of mindset.

“We all, as lawyers, take it for granted that there is one standard in our profession and that is perfection. From law school onwards, that is the standard – anything else is humiliation and disgrace.

“Saying to lawyers after 20 or 30 years that they must focus on what they can do better and write this down – that is a big change.”

Speaking at last week’s Westminster Legal Policy Forum, Ms Joseph said the “ongoing reflective practice” demanded by the new system could not be delegated or done by rote.

“We have to get people to engage with new regime,” she said. “The drafting is different. Learning plans, learning objectives, learning needs are not familiar to lawyers…

“What I’ve found is that often senior lawyers don’t want to finalise their plans as quickly as possible. What they want is to send me something that I can comment on, and say it is what I would expect and in line with the requirements.”

Ms Joseph said that, in anticipation of the new regime, Hogan Lovells introduced learning plans a year ago, before moving to the new system this August.

She said senior lawyers, who often “had the most to change”, produced learning plans that were “very rich” and were “very self-aware and honest about their leadership style and how they manage their team”.

Ms Joseph went on: “These weren’t competence issues and they weren’t failing, but they saw the learning plans as something very useful, which they could use to further their own development.

“We respected that and we responded by making it clear to lawyers that their plan is confidential. It is something you might not want your PA to see.”

Ms Joseph added that she had “walked the floor” and spoken to partners about the changes, and the firm had introduced a “round-the-clock help desk”, so “however busy they are and wherever they are placed in the global network”, lawyers get the help they need.

Law firms opting into the new system are not required to inform the SRA, but the regulator said in April said that over 200 law firms “of all sizes” had joined at the start. The old, hours-based CPD scheme will be phased out completely by 1 November 2016.

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