Continuing Professional Development

The Professional Statement – what is it and why is it important?

All practising barristers need to be able to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and attributes prescribed by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) in the Professional Statement.

The threshold standard is that of ‘day one of practice’ which means that even a newly qualified barrister, having successfully completed pupillage, should be able to demonstrate the broad scope of competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard.

Those who have been in practice for some time, will inevitably have developed those competences to a higher standard than the ‘threshold standard’.

How does the practising Bar demonstrate their competence?

To make sure that barristers continue to meet the requirements of the Professional Statement, and that they continue to develop relevant knowledge and skills, barristers are required to undertake Continuing Professional Development in accordance with the BSB’s CPD Scheme. Barristers are no longer required to undertake a minimum number of CPD hours annually, nor is there a requirement to undertake ‘accredited’ CPD courses.

During the first three full years in practice, barristers must comply with the CPD rules within the New Practitioners Programme (NPP). After practising for more than three full years, barristers must comply with rules within the Established Practitioners Programme (EPP). The BSB checks that barristers are complying with CPD requirements by spot checking a sample of practitioners’ CPD records on both the NPP and the EPP.

Established practitioners are required to create a CPD Plan which includes learning objectives, CPD activities, and reflection of the process overall. The BSB has published information relating to the scheme.

The ICCA approach to Teaching and Learning

The ICCA has a Teaching and Learning Strategy where we set out that we will:

  • Provide opportunities for professional development for all members of the Bar while building a culture of collegiality.
  • Develop and deliver a curriculum which responds to changing demands, enabling students and practitioners to meet career objectives.
  • Foster a culture of reflective practice enabling students and practitioners to meet expectations of professional competency.

In order to assist practitioners with their CPD, we are creating a template to assist with the preparation of a CPD Plan based on the BSB’s recommended approach.

We provide freely available CPD materials in the following ways and in important areas of practice:

We also hold specialist training events for Pupil Supervisors, the handling of expert witnesses in financial and medico-legal cases and Advanced Criminal Advocacy sessions. For more details, please contact info@icca.ac.uk

If I am a criminal practitioner undertaking serious work in the crown court, what kind of CPD should I undertake?

In order to demonstrate that you have reflected on your practice and identified areas where you feel that development is necessary, you will need to look at the Professional Statement as a starting point.

The Professional Statement sets out at 1.15 that a competent barrister will:

Have persuasive oral advocacy skills.
They will be able to communicate their client’s case effectively. They will be able to deliver coherent, well-structured and concise submissions and cite legal authorities and materials appropriately. They will be able to engage appropriately with and maintain an awareness of others in any forum where they represent clients.

When delivering submissions and questioning witnesses, they will be able to communicate audibly, using both pace and language that are appropriate to the tribunal. They will be able to handle witnesses in accordance with the rules of the court. They will ask questions which assist the court, focus on the real issues in the case and avoid the irrelevant. They will listen to the answers and demonstrate appropriate conduct towards the witness.

Barristers should:

  • Thoroughly recall and comprehend and accurately apply to the matters they are dealing with the law and procedure relevant to advocacy.
  • Apply effective analytical and evaluative skills to their work [1.5].
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses from different parties’ perspectives.
  • Prepare how they will effectively communicate the argument.
  • Manage facts to support the argument or position.
  • Present orally a reasoned argument in a clear, logical, succinct and persuasive way.
  • Use and cite legal authority appropriately.
  • Comply with all relevant formalities.
  • Recognise the role of different types of witness and use appropriate techniques for witness handling having particular regard to vulnerable witnesses.
  • Listen and respond effectively to questions and opposing arguments.
  • Deploy advocacy skills efficiently and effectively, in compliance with the Core Duties, so far as possible, notwithstanding that they may be required to act at short notice or under other legitimate pressure.

As can be seen from 1.15(i), a competent barrister must recognise the role of different types of witness and use appropriate questioning techniques for witness handling, having particular regard to vulnerable witnesses.

Your CPD Plan could, for example, set out a Learning Objective such as: Identify and understand the latest principles of best practice when cross-examining children and vulnerable witnesses.

Your Learning Objective Rationale might be: In order to remain competent when questioning children and vulnerable witnesses and to be sufficiently competent to accept work in such cases.

The type and nature of CPD activities might include:

  • Online learning
  • Face-to-face training
  • Watching training films
  • Reading

Your Record of Activity should then set out precisely what you did to perform the stated activities and you should reflect on whether you felt that the activity you undertook met the learning objective you set for yourself. It should be relatively easy to evidence your pursuit of the activity and you should make a note of the hours spent. For example:

  • 8 hours online prep of the ICCA Advocacy and the Vulnerable Course
  • 3 hours face-to-face training on the ICCA’s Advocacy and the Vulnerable Course
  • 1 hour watching exemplar films on the Bar Council portal on the ICCA’s Advocacy and the Vulnerable Course
  • Reading Children and Cross-examination – Time to Change the Rules, Professor M Lamb and John R Spencer

Developing a reflective practice is something that the ICCA encourages and supports. We strive to produce materials and guidance on topical areas and to support the practising Bar to maintain their knowledge and skills in an effort to make the profession the best that it can be. We strive for academic and professional excellence for the Bar.