As the continuing competency rules are changing mid-way through the practice year, do I still need to declare a minimum number of hours CPD in 2023?
No, from 1 July 2023 there is no requirement to specify the number of hours’ continuing competence activities undertaken. Instead, when attorneys come to complete their annual return at the end of the 2023 calendar year, they will be asked to make a Continuing Competence Declaration. They will need to confirm that they have:
1. Reflected on their practice and identified areas for improvement, development or refresher training
2. Planned how to achieve those needs through appropriate training, research or other learning activities
3. Recorded the activities undertaken and evaluated how those activities met the needs identified.
IPReg will not require attorneys to upload evidence that they have reflected on their practice, but as part of our assurance processes we will ask some attorneys to provide their records to us over the next 18 months. The purpose of this is not to punish failures to follow the new process, but to understand how well the new rules are becoming embedded, identify whether there are any obstacles in place preventing attorneys from complying with the new rules and sharing best practice across the professions more widely.
How does maternity leave or other long term leave affect my obligations?
If an attorney will be going on long term leave (such as sick leave or maternity/paternity leave) before or after 1 July 2023 and will not be returning to active practice before 31 December 2023, they will still be required to make the Continuing Competence Declaration. They should have recorded the activities undertaken (as they would have been required to do so under the old rules) and if later asked by IPReg, be able to explain why they chose those CPD activities and whether they met an identified development need.
If an attorney is returning to work in 2023 following a period of leave, they should, at the point of returning, reflect on their practice and take steps to consider what learning or development activities they may need to undertake to ensure they remain competent to practise. Depending on the time of the year, the attorney may not be able to complete many activities before making their Continuing Competence Declaration as part of their annual return, but they should at least take the time to identify activities for the future that will assist with their current development needs, and record them in the usual way.
I am not currently actively practising. Do I still need to reflect on my competence?
IPReg’s continuing competence requirements are for attorneys in an active practice category. Attorneys that are not actively practising due to parental leave, long term illness or sabbatical need not reflect on their practice and undertake learning activities for the period of their inactive practice.
If an attorney knows in advance that they will be taking an extended period of leave from active practice, they should apply to IPReg for a waiver of the continuing competence requirements. This can be done via the attorney's online IPReg account. During the period of inactive practice, the attorney's fee paying category will change to Attorney Not in Active Practice and during that period the attorney may not undertake any patent or trade mark attorney work. If an Attorney intends to work sporadically during this period they may not change their fee paying category and will be required to comply with the continuing competence rules.
If an attorney has had to take an extended period of leave unexpectedly, for example due to illness or caring responsibilities, they may seek a waiver retrospectively. IPReg may ask for evidence that the attorney was not in active practice during the relevant period.
Where an attorney has been out of active practice for more than 12 months, IPReg may ask the attorney to confirm that they have reflected on their practice and have identified learning activities which will allow them to bring themselves back up to date with developments in their sector during their period of inactive practice.
I work part time. Can I do less CPD?
All regulated attorneys in private practice must comply with IPReg’s continuing competence requirements. As these requirements focus on the practice of each individual attorney, those working part time should consider their practice and reflect on their development needs in the same way as those working in full time roles. The approach taken to continuing competence will therefore be the same for a full time attorney as for a part time attorney.
It is obvious that a part time attorney spends less time in active practice than those working full time so will have less time to commit to reflection and identifying activities for development. All attorneys should consider their individual working pattern and take a proportionate approach to devoting time to reflection and ongoing learning. Like those in full time practice, part time attorneys may spend more time one year reflecting on their practice and undertaking activities to develop their skills than in the next. A part time attorney may need to be more targeted in their approach to reflection, choosing to focus on one or two main areas in a given year where a full time attorney may have the opportunities to do more. IPReg is not concerned about the time an attorney devotes to continuing competence but rather the outcomes that flow from the process of reflection and undertaking activities which meet development needs.
I am on both the patent attorney register and the trade mark attorney register. Do I need to do more CPD activities than an attorney on only one register?
There is no requirement to do an equal split of patent attorney activities and trade mark attorney activities. This is not an hours-based requirement and attorneys should look at their own practice and decide for themselves, the areas to focus on.
The requirement for attorneys is that they continuously reflect on their practice and identify opportunities for learning and development to keep to a competent standard. For attorneys on two registers, this might mean from time to time that activities are focussed more towards one profession than the other. This might change from year to year depending on the attorney’s practice or changes to law or other developments that impact on one specialism more than the other.
I am based overseas and do little UK attorney work. Do I still need to do CPD? Does it have to relate to UK law and practice?
Attorneys who are based abroad are still subject to the IPReg continuing competence requirements which require the attorney to reflect on their individual practice and undertake learning and development activities so they continue to provide a competent service to their clients or employer. This might mean that an attorney who does very little UK attorney work needs to focus more time on developing their skills and knowledge in areas other than UK law and practice.
However, such attorneys should regularly reflect on their practice in the context of the Competency Frameworks and take steps to ensure their skills and knowledge meet the minimum competency levels set out in the frameworks. This will include UK-specific law and practice competencies.
How do I record my CPD? Is there a required template?
IPReg is not prescribing the way continuing competence reflection should be recorded. In its Continuing Competence Guidance, there are some sample templates which attorneys may find useful to adapt to their own purposes. Attorneys may use their own firm’s or company’s learning and development templates (if they have them) so long as the record covers the key requirements to specify a learning or development need, describe the activity done to address the need and evaluate whether the activity chosen sufficiently addressed the required outcome.
How do I report my compliance with the continuing competence requirements?
You will be asked to confirm that you have reflected on your practice and carried out activities to address any identified learning needs as part of your annual return. You will not need to provide any evidence of this unless we ask you to.
Can I use the CPD log in my IPReg account to record my CPD?
The CPD log allows free text of up to 5000 characters (approximately 2 A4 pages of typed text). This is likely more than sufficient for each record and there are no limits on the number of records you can create. The log is entirely optional and attorneys may use this to record their reflective practice should they wish to do so.
Can I ask for a waiver if I have been unable to do any continuing competence through the year?
The requirement to reflect on practice and undertake activities to address any development needs is a continuous process and does not start and end with the calendar year. There should be very few reasons why an attorney has not been able to reflect on their practice and plan activities to address their needs. It may be the case that the needs have not been fully addressed through an activity or series of activities due to unexpected circumstances such as illness, and an attorney may wish to ask for a waiver via their IPReg account. You should do this in plenty of time to allow IPReg to consider your application before the deadline to complete your annual return and pay your practising fees. Late applications may result in your annual return not being accepted and suspension from the register.
There would normally be no reason why an attorney who has actively practised during the year, would not have had the opportunity to reflect on their practice and ongoing learning needs, so it is unlikely that IPReg would grant a waiver in those circumstances.