Lessons from the audit of 2021 CPD records

All Costs Lawyers who are regulated by the CLSB must maintain and develop their knowledge and practical skills to ensure they meet the standards expected of them in the Costs Lawyer Code of Conduct. The regulatory requirements relating to CPD are contained in the CPD Rules.

The CLSB undertakes an annual audit to assess whether Costs Lawyers have engaged meaningfully with their development needs and undertaken activities  relevant to those needs. We acknowledge that there are many different ways Costs Lawyers can do this successfully. The emphasis is on education rather than sanction, particularly in the early years of the new regime, with the aim of improving standards in an enduring way.

The Costs Lawyer Handbook contains a Guidance Note intended to help Costs Lawyers understand and comply with CPD obligations. The guidance details how to identify CPD needs and set objectives, and how to evaluate and record CPD activity.

Our approach to supervision contains a Supervision Framework for CPD activity, which sets out how the CLSB supervises compliance with the CPD Rules, describes the audit criteria and process and provides the checklist against which Full CPD Records are audited.

2021 CPD records were audited in February-March 2022. This was the first audit of CPD undertaken under the new CPD Rules effective from 1 January 2021.

The rest of this page highlights some issues arising from the 2021 audit – in  which 19 Costs Lawyers were randomly selected for audit – to help all Costs Lawyers learn from our findings and get the most from their annual CPD activities. The quotations below are from the written CPD records of Costs Lawyers audited.

Lessons for Costs Lawyers

1. Plan your CPD at the start of the practising year
Planning your CPD at the start of each practising year will help ensure you do relevant CPD, rather than whatever is available at the end of the year to reach the minimum points. 

“Setting out my objectives from the beginning of the year ensured I got the most out of my CPD activities, rather than trying to fit them all in at the end of the year.”

Assessing my needs and planning my CPD throughout the year helped me get more value from CPD activities, as I no longer had to try and fit in activities in the final months of the year to make up the requisite points.”

“Next year I plan to identify relevant webinars on a monthly basis so that my CPD is better spread out through the year.”

2. Keep written records of CPD planning, objectives, activity and evaluation
This is a requirement in the CPD Rules in force from 1 January 2021. No particular format is required but there is a template you can use available on our CPD webpage. Every Costs Lawyer audited this year used this template and by using this structure they complied with many of the points in the Audit Checklist. Our evidence from the audit is that Costs Lawyers are finding this template useful.

“I need to assess my needs at the beginning of the year and plan out/ resource sources at an earlier point in the year. The template this year has helped, but I feel I can utilize it further next year.”

“… planning my CPD activities was helpful and as a result I believe I took a more targeted approach to selecting my CPD activities…”

Three Costs Lawyers audited had not kept a written record of CPD planning, objectives, activity and evaluation, and will be audited again next year as a result. 

3. Be specific in setting CPD objectives

Make sure that the objectives you set are specific, reflecting your own practice, existing skills and any learning needs. This will ensure you get the most benefit from the process, which is designed to benefit you and your clients; it is not just a box-ticking exercise.

Several Costs Lawyers audited listed as their only objective in the legal and technical competence category “keeping up to date”. They were asked to set more meaningful and specific objectives in future, in light of reflection on their professional development needs. 

Think about any emerging issues, and how they might affect your practice. In this audit many Costs Lawyers had been reflecting on the increase in solicitor-client disputes and the training needs that presented to them, and others on how their practice had changed in light of the pandemic. 

I am particularly thinking of Court hearings being conducted by video link and the slightly different skill set that has to be applied.”

We are seeing a lot more Solicitor/Client costs matters coming through. I need to be up to date on the law and issues surrounding these cases.”

“Given that I have been required to assist on a number of solicitor/client disputes in 2020, I would like to attend a training seminar relevant to that area.”

4. Keep evidence of CPD activities undertaken 

You must keep records of CPD activities you undertake for two years – keeping track of this information as you complete CPD, and storing it together will ensure you can respond to an audit request promptly and without unnecessary worry. 

If you leave a post make sure you will continue to have access to your CPD evidence, or take copies with you. 

Some forms of CPD are harder to evidence than others. In line with our Supervision Framework if you provide evidence as far as is reasonable for the majority of CPD activities, we will not pursue evidence of activities such as listening to podcasts or reading articles. By contrast, if your CPD activities are mainly unevidenced activities such as listening to podcasts or reading articles, some form of evidence will be expected (such as notes or examples of the learning in use). 

5. Stay in touch if audited

If you are audited please respond by the deadlines we set, and let us know in good time if you have any difficulties with this. The majority of Costs Lawyers that were audited this year did so, and this made the process easier for us and them. 

You must comply with the CPD Rules and the Code of Conduct, and respond to reasonable requests from CLSB. We are always happy to grant extra time to comply with requests if there is good reason. But we can only do this if you keep us informed.

Further information

There’s lots more information on our Continuing Professional Development webpage. If you still have queries please do contact us and we will be happy to help.

We carry out a random audit of CPD every year. Make sure you know the Rules, follow them and keep the required records.