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Continuing professional development (CPD) training for immigration lawyers

Continuing professional development (CPD) training for immigration lawyers

What are the rules on continuing professional development (CPD) training for immigration solicitors, barristers and OISC advisers, and what CPD training is now approved by the legal regulators? How much CPD training can now be undertaken online? Here on Free Movement we provide a real variety of online CPD and can help all three groups of immigration lawyer meet their CPD needs.

As background, the CPD training regime for all three types of practitioner underwent massive changes in 2016:

  • The requirement to undertake a specific number of hours of training per year was dropped
  • Any training undertaken can be with any training provider, not just a regulator-approved provider
  • Online CPD is acceptable for a lawyer’s whole CPD requirements, if that lawyer assessed it as suitable

The practicalities of the scheme have also fundamentally changed. Previously, a lawyer could attend virtually any training at all as long is it was provided by a regulator-approved training company. The training companies rather than the lawyers needed to satisfy the regulators that the training was of a suitable standard. As long as the required number of hours were clocked up this met the requirements of the CPD schemes.

Additionally, the accredited training providers were expected to keep records of attendees and provide these to the regulators on demand. This aspect of the scheme has also, necessarily, been dropped.

The three new CPD regimes for solicitors, barristers and OISC advisors are different but they all operate in broadly the same way. Lawyers are expected to:

  • Identify their own training needs
  • Plan for how to meet those needs
  • Address those needs
  • Record and evaluate how they met their training needs
  • Submit an annual return to the regulator declaring that they have complied with the scheme

The regulator of each profession has given some examples of CPD-compliant activity, which follow below. I have highlighted in bold those activities that can be undertaken on Free Movement.

Solicitors

The Solicitors Regulation Authority outlines a long list of non-exhaustive means by which solicitors might address their training needs. This includes:

  • Formal training, whether face to face, online, externally or in-house. The SRA says “You can consider formal training in different, innovative and flexible formats as long as you can demonstrate it meets your learning and development needs”
  • In-house training, such as legal tradecraft skills sessions
  • Shared learning, such as feeding back to a team from an external training course
  • Informal training such as research, reading and discussion, monthly update meetings, file reviews, peer to peer, networking, learning and development networks, observation, mentoring, coaching, secondments and social media such as blogs and Twitter

In short, there is no limit on the means by which a solicitor can address his or her training needs as long as it is effective for the individual concerned and the solicitor complies with the other requirements of the scheme by planning, recording and evaluating.

OISC advisers

Methods of learning and development specifically mentioned by the OISC include:

  • Classroom training
  • Online training
  • In-house training
  • Conference or meeting
  • Webinar
  • Review of gov.uk and Home Office website materials
  • Reading material and blogs from reputable sources
  • Supervision, coaching and teaching

The OISC will review and inspect plans and records during audits, as part of any investigation and by “dip sampling”.

Barristers

The CPD scheme for barristers of more than three years call is similar to the schemes for solicitors and OISC advisers. Rather than undertaking a set number of hours of any training by an accredited provider, barristers must undertake activities that might include:

  • Taking part in formal face-to-face training courses, including university courses
  • Online courses
  • Podcasts
  • Attending conferences
  • Taking part in seminars or webinars
  • Reading or research
  • Authorship and editing of published works of a professional nature. This could include exam papers; substantial consultation responses; law reform proposals; professional updating e-zines / blogs
  • Presenting seminars, lectures and workshops
  • Teaching a relevant legal course eg LLBs, LLMs, the GDL, BPTC, LPC or Diplomas in Law

The Bar Standards Board says in its detailed guidance that it will monitor CPD through spot checking, with a focus on barristers at higher risk of non-compliance.

Doing your CPD through Free Movement

We help immigration practitioners address their training needs and record and evaluate whether those needs have been met. You can:

  • Read the main blog. We quickly post information about important new developments such as changes to the Immigration Rules or fresh cases. These updates go on the main blog and in our daily and weekly email newsletters. However, it is easy to overlook emails, there are limits on the number of blog posts that non-members can access and this means of keeping up to date leaves no real record, so emails alone are probably not good enough to satisfy formal CPD requirements. Free Movement membership grants access to more formalised options.
  • Take online training courses. There are 23 subject-specific courses available on Free Movement at the time of writing, plus at least 24 monthly update courses at any one time. These add up to over 80 hours of continued professional development training. Each course includes a short quiz at the end, after which you can download a certificate to record that you have successfully undertaken the course.
  • Listen to monthly update podcasts. I record a 25-minute podcast every month. They can be listened to on any computer with speakers or downloaded to a phone and listened to on a commute. I select the more important posts from a given month and then simply talk through the developments and their wider significance. You can use these creatively: podcasts would be a good basis for further discussion at a team meeting, for example. In order to help comply with CPD requirements, Free Movement members can access each podcast as a short course with a ten-question quiz and download a certificate as a record.
  • Join the forum. The Free Movement forum allows members to exchange ideas and practical problems and solutions. Especially for sole practitioners or solicitors in small teams, this can be an invaluable way of seeking feedback and high quality peer-to-peer advice. You are likely to get it, too – in the past week alone, there were 20 separate topics under active discussion.
  • Write for us. A guest post on Free Movement takes your engagement with new developments to the next level. There can be few better demonstrations that you are across a freshly published judgment than being able to explain it in accessible terms to other practitioners and the wider public. Record keeping takes care of itself: an article under your byline will always be accessible on the site, and you can save a html or pdf copy of the post into your own files. Ideas can be submitted to the Deputy Editor, Conor James McKinney.

If you have suggestions on other ways we can help, drop us a line.

Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder and editor of the Free Movement immigration law website.

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