Prioritising professional development in tough times

In hard financial times, it's important to find CPD opportunities which can have a real impact says Jon Beaumont.

With the current reductions in budgets for virtually every area of support service within law firms, the education, learning and development of its employees from a costs perspective is under very close scrutiny.

Whilst a lawyer needs to attain a whopping 16 hours a year of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), no such requirement is placed upon a non-chartered information person.

Why learning from others is so important

In my view, the importance of both learning from, and networking with, fellow professionals (particularly if you are working in a small team) has never been more important.  This is obviously due to the changing role of the profession, whether this be with regard to technology, social networking or legal issues.  It is also prudent to remain aware of any threats to our current approach of working, which may take the form of something obvious like budget cuts, a lessening of staff resources, or even possibly outsourcing.

Learning at BIALL

The recent British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) conference in Newcastle addressed all of the issues described above.  In addition a variety of eclectic subjects of relevance to any information professional with an interest in legal information were covered including:

  • Knowledge management
  • SharePoint
  • Appraisals
  • Taxonomies
  • Presentation Skills
  • Copyright

However, as with any conference, BIALL is not simply about learning.  The social element and networking opportunities are vastly important and facilitate knowledge-sharing with our peers. Although it would be wrong to attend such an event with a detailed target list of all individuals from whom you would like to glean information (we are certainly not recruitment agents!), I do always glance through the delegates list in an attempt to identify past acquaintances, old friends and individuals with whom I have had contact within the past twelve months or so.

Value for money - conferences offer learning - and more

The price of a single day training course is often prohibitive in the current climate (in the UK CILIP has recently announced it is ceasing to offer public access training courses - a direct result of fewer people being able to pay for and attend training programmes).  But at a total cost of under £500 for three days, this Conference provides remarkable value for money. The richness of knowledge provided, and the willingness of experts to share this, only heightens its quality. I am already planning my trip to the 43rd Annual Conference & Exhibition in Belfast on 14th - 16th June next year. Despite budget cuts, this will be the first event on my CPD list. In tough times we all need to identify our 'must attend events' even if we have to forget about some of the 'nice-to-haves'.

Networking is critical, whether you are a new or 'established' professional.  My colleague, Helen Marshall writes here about her experience as a new professional attending her first BIALL conference.  We both found the conference a valuable learning experience, but in different ways.

Jon Beaumont is Head of KM at law firm Harvey Ingram.

Image courtesy of timsnell via Flickr.