Why now is the perfect time for lawyers to reflect on learning and development

Many lawyers may well have extra time on their hands working from home at the moment. Dave Seager suggests this could be the perfect time to brush up on your professional learning and build your knowledge on financial planning issues in your area of law.

As we deal with this pandemic, we will all have to come to terms with new working patterns, whatever our profession. With technology, of course, there is much we can do from the comfort of our own home to continue to interact with and support our clients.

But could this time be used productively for reflection, too?

Reflecting on our professionalism, our knowledge and, perhaps, how we can improve that knowledge and consider the gaps in our learning and professional development might benefit us, such that we arrive on the other side of this crisis stronger and better equipped.

Certainly, we will be encouraging our SIFA Professional members to read our support material and articles on how they should effectively and compliantly work with their solicitor connections under the new SRA Standards and Regulations. As solicitors, since November 2016, your approach to continued professional development has changed. In the words of the regulator, it was no longer to be about counting hours, but about ‘continued competence’:

“Instead you should now reflect on the quality of your practice and identify any learning and development needs. You can then address these needs to make sure your knowledge and skills are up to date and that you are competent to practice.”

I suggest that now is an excellent time to do this. Clients expect you to take a more holistic approach to their case, so why not take this opportunity to widen your knowledge on the areas of financial planning that compliment your own area of law?

A good understanding of the type of financial planning needed and the range of solutions your financial advisory partners have at their disposal is invaluable

It is not about becoming an expert in an area of financial planning – hopefully, your firm’s management and COLP have identified appropriate financial planning professionals to refer work to! However, a good understanding of the type of financial planning needed and the range of solutions your financial advisory partners have at their disposal is invaluable. Enhancing your knowledge will help you identify where your client needs complimentary financial planning, at which stage of the process to refer to a financial planning partner, and which partner to choose.

So why not turn this enforced ’quiet’ period to good use and undertake some positive continued professional development? Take some time to approach your financial advisory colleagues, who are similarly trying to stay busy. I am sure they would be happy to offer you reading material, or even point you in the direction of useful webcasts or training resources.

This might be on the financial planning aspects of estate planning, trustee investments or perhaps pensions on divorce. SIFA Professional publishes handbooks that cover all aspects of financial planning in these three most common complimentary areas (you can order these via the SIFA Directory). You can also obtain copies from SIFA Professional members in your areas.

SIFA Professional members or other financial advisers you work with, should, in turn, be keen to benefit from any knowledge or insight you can offer them to better understand your working patterns, and how they can interact better with you and your colleagues. Quality financial planning partners should be happy to provide ongoing training to ensure your knowledge is kept up to date, via meetings or webinars as appropriate. SIFA Professional provides free monthly webinars on areas of mutual interest to financial advisers and their solicitor connections.

Financial and legal services frequently go hand in hand. Clients want a joined-up approach to their affairs and problems. Now is the perfect time to reflect on this and utilise some of your hours at home for professional development and to ensure your continued competence, particularly when it comes to working with financial planning partners, for the benefit of your clients.

Dave Seager is a managing director of SIFA Professional, which provides business and marketing support to impartial independent financial advisers who work with solicitors. SIFA Professional is a partner of the Law Society. For more information, visit our Membership Extra page.

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