Tuesday 17 December 2013

CPD: something to muse on

CPD: can be a heavy burden but it always
relevant to practitioners' needs?
Earlier today, when casting around for interesting subjects that never get written about in IP journals, I found myself musing about the requirements imposed on IP practitioners in some jurisdictions with regard to continuing professional development -- the magical letters "CPD".  What I found myself wondering was whether the regime for CPD was in need of a substantial degree of rationalisation.  In the UK, which is itself divided as between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, four species of practitioners ply their expertise: solicitors, barristers, patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys.  Each profession has its own criteria, its own rules, its own notions as to what counts as training at all.  And the professions in the UK are in competition with those elsewhere in Europe, many of which -- this blogger suspects -- have rudimentary CPD rules or none at all.

Beyond that, there are questions of convenience.  Large firms generally self-certify their staff's CPD points, which means that they can gain the requisite number of hours with the inconvenience of leaving their place of work or the risk of meeting interesting people who work for other firms.

Then there is the question of relevance of the continued professional development.  This blogger well recalls attending a one-day conference on IP and Sport some years ago, at which one of the registrants was an in-house solicitor with a public utility.  No, he said, this event had nothing to do with any work he had ever done or was likely to do, but he needed those CPD hours. How far should actual and expected work be allowed to dictate CPD requirements, if at all?

All of this leads this blogger to wonder: do the inconsistencies in CPD requirements as between jurisdictions and as between the IP professions impose greater burdens on the sole/small practitioner than on large firms and those who work for them, and do they have an undesirable effect on competition both within the professions and between them.

Any thoughts?


  1. For many years, I've been an Assessor for (now) the Solicitors Regulation Authority for courses on IP. Your blog reminds me of a meeting of Assessors that happened a while back and which discussed both (a) the different regimes in different professions (including whether " light touch " might be appropriate for CPD for solicitors) and (b) how CPD might be (ought to be ?) a process for personal as well as professional development. Lost in archives is the follow-on letter I remember writing to the then Chief Assessor (who had convened the meeting) in the context of (b) - suggesting use of the moniker CPPD (for " Continuing Professional and Personal Development ") to signal new thinking / new approach in relation to CPD for solicitors.
    It didn't happen - there was fear of throwing the baby out with the bath-water - but good to see your post and hope it collects constructive comment !

  2. I suspect that other differences in regulation have more of an impact than CPD requirements, eg the conflict of interest rules which seem to be much tougher on solicitors than patent attorneys. And then of course there is the fact that the IPEC is now part of the High Court and solicitors will need rights of higher audience (unlike patent attorneys), unless the SRA changes its mind.

    Solicitors who don't want to spend money on CPD tend to get some of their points through attending free courses, eg in-house lawyers attending big law firm's seminars.

  3. I think the goal behind CPD to keep an attorney fit for purpose beyond qualifying is hard to achieve. I must admit to attending events just for CPD purposes. As a sole practitioner I find many CIPA events slightly too expensive, and wonder whether the CPD field is truly competitive for patent attorneys (i.e. does CIPA have a monopoly?), but I also know CIPA don't make huge profits.

    CPD is required because as a profession we are expected to have it. But really patent attorneys should be wakeful to what they don't know and ensure their clients don't suffer the consequences. Unfortunately I don't think we have enough of a 'serving the public' ethos, and if that was different we would make much more of a contribution as a profession.

  4. The latest EPI Information journal has an article by Chris Mercer on CPD in the UK (attend a few in house seminars, read some cases and supervise a trainee) and another from Poland which is written in a wholly different style and probably implies exactly the same thing.
    Points for the sake of it are hopeless. I agree with the previous commenter that the CIPA events are too expensive, especially when ITMA and AIPPI offer high quality lectures as part of their subscription.
    Unfortunately its much easier to organize presentations from willing sellers than it is to put together a program that achieves some learning objective. I am however trying but I need to know your learning objectives.
    Responding to Mark's comment on higher rights of audience the money I spent on going through that assessment was very worthwhile.

  5. Until very reently, there was no obligation in France to enage in CPD for registered IP attorneys (Conseils en Propriété Industrielle). This has now come to pass, although what that will mean in practice remains to be seen.

    As an Englishman practising in France, I always found it rather odd that there were no requirements for keeping one's knowledge up to date, especially since barristers and sollicitors in France were already required to do so. For some of the elder colleagues I knew in the IP profession, it was clearly something in which they had no interest, and yet from which they would have gained enormous benefit, not to mention reassurance for their own clients.

    Now that we have this requirement, I can imagine that people will end up doing precisely what was outlined in the initial post, i.e. attending for the sake of it. This is probably more so the case since the funding organisations for professional and personal development, to which every employer must contribute, even solo practitioners, decide on what is, or is not, allowable as a funded training program - what I failed to mention here is that the employer generally pays for the course in question, and then gets reimbursed by the funding organisation. It is of note here that the funding organisations do not generally consider training programs outside of France as "valid / certified" - yet another form of protectionism of the local training market. This makes attending events outside of France, which would be of value to the attendee, nigh on impossible, leaving one with the list of French organised and oriented CPD training.