Despite the fact that law is a knowledge-based profession, education and training is not necessarily the most pressing item on the law firm agenda.  Financial stability, compliance and equality and diversity will all have rank higher. Pressure of work may mean that attendance at “yet another course” has to be cancelled.  However, since the decision to move away from an “hours-based” system, CPD has motored up the regulatory agenda.

What has changed?

The “turn up to some training, sign in, get your hours, job done” approach is ending.  It’s not that CPD is ending, just changing from this traditional “input centric” model. Learning does not have to take place “in a course”. There are a variety of informal settings which can also capture the best learning experiences.

What do I need to do?

The first order of business is to apply Outcome 7.6 of the Code of Conduct.

“O7.6  you train individuals working in the firm to maintain a level of competence appropriate to their work and level of responsibility;”

It is not surprising that the term “level” appears twice in this outcome. Training must be provided across the board to all involved in the provision of services to clients, not just fee earners. Rule 8.2 of the SRA Authorisation Rules states firms should have suitable arrangements for training and compliance. If you are a COLP or a training manager, can you be sure that arrangements for training achieve the Outcome 7.6 imperative of competence and level.


Settling the Level: first find your verb and set your outcome

Bloom’s Taxonomy was developed in the mid-1950s by Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist at the University of Chicago. In the early 1950s, much testing and assessment depended on the simple test or factual recall assessment whereas Bloom was more interested in what have been described as “higher order” thinking skills.

Bloom identified six basic levels together with the corresponding indicator which described the activity the student could be expected to complete to ensure the relevant objective (now outcome) had been achieved.

Bloom’s Taxonomy - definitions

  1. Knowledge/recall – identify;
  2. Comprehension/understanding - describe, explain;
  3. Application - demonstrate/illustrate
  4. Analysis - compare/distinguish
  5. Synthesis – design/create
  6. Evaluation – evaluate or revise


This is not just theoretical gobbledegook. It is a straightforward method to set outcomes to be achieved at an appropriate level.  In terms of education spend, it facilitates a greater degree of precision when designing in-house courses or when instructing a course provider in the way that Bloom originally envisaged.  For instance, if you decide that you simply wish a particular group to understand a particular procedure you may set your outcome at the lower level of “be able to identify the procedure required to issue a Claim Form.” This may be all a new apprentice needs to know. However, a solicitor of 5 years PQE may need to be able to “Create and draft a pleading in a basic patent case.” Training confined to lunchtime briefing sessions and updates which are simply passive in nature, without the need to produce anything, are at the lower end of Bloom’s taxonomy in the recall and comprehension arena. They are of value but so are other activities.

Setting your Agenda

The achievement of O7.6 requires some form of Training Needs Assessment (TNA). There are some “big beasts” of compliance (e.g. AML) which are “must haves”, together with

  • Professional updates: e.g. case law updates
  • Employee management: e.g. equality and diversity training
  • Operational requirements: e.g. new computer system and software systems
  • “One to One development and feedback session in department”: e.g. feedback from a more senior lawyer on a draft pleading or contract

The final element is intriguing. Some of the most beneficial training is gained from interaction between a more senior lawyer and a trainee. This was difficult to capture in the past: it was “dead time” which would find itself written off on the cutting room floor. Why not introduce a time recording code to capture this activity and log it. This approach will help you to find the “natural trainers” within the firm. Most trainees know the name of a friendly associate who will help them, yet such invisible training is rarely captured or rewarded.

Gathering your data: Evaluation Questionnaires & Evidence Collection

Outcome 7.6 demands greater thought to be given to exactly what is being “scored” by the participant. Evaluation questionnaires show trends and can provide valuable evidence if they are drafted appropriately. The outcomes “analyse” signals that the outcome is towards the mid-range of Bloom’s taxonomy, appropriate for the level of course. “Create” signals attainment slightly higher up the scale.  Pick your verb - an apprentice may need to “identify” but a trainee may need to “analyse”.  Fig 2 shows some typical data collection which could then be plotted into a graph to illustrate trends:

Learning outcomes     Reason for score

Did you understand the learning outcomes?







Extent to which I am now able to:


Analyse the evidence in a basic trade mark care







Yes – this was a good introductory course. I feel that I would be able to assist in a case now



Create and draft an outline pleading in a basic trade mark case







I’m not so confident at the moment. I think I need to do a few more sessions on pleading





Fig 2: An illustration of an evidence based evaluation questionnaire


This new approach to CPD brings with it many freedoms together with a level of uncertainty. Each firm will have a different agenda based on work type and staff need. Yet this flexibility, evidence capture of valuable training happening in the office every day, should prove a welcome relief from wasted money on another cancelled course.

Jane Jarman, Solicitor

Reader, Nottingham Law School

[1] This diagram is based on Bloom’s original taxonomy. There have been many attempts to redesign or revise the original theory.