Reflective Practice: second in a series of short articles

This is the second in a series of short articles on reflective practice in continuing professional development (CPD) from CIPA’s Chief Executive, Lee Davies. In his life before CIPA, Lee set up the Institute for Learning, then the professional body for further education teachers. Lee was the architect of ‘REfLECT’, the online e-portfolio built on reflective practice, and of CPD based on the dual-professional identity (teacher and subject expert) of further education teachers. Lee was the author of ‘Towards a new Professionalism’ (2007), which transformed further education teacher training.

Here Lee explores professional identity and how patent attorneys might view their professional identity in relation to CPD and reflective practice.

Professional identity

What is professional identity?

This is the hardy perennial consideration for professional membership bodies such as CIPA, particularly in a rapidly evolving environment where factors such as technology, regulation and competition test our understanding of what a patent attorney looks like, in terms of professional identity.

Professional identity can be thought of as a combination of the sense of self and the set of values, beliefs, and qualities that individuals come to associate with their profession or occupation. It encompasses how individuals perceive themselves as professionals, how they identify with their role in the workplace or within a specific field, and the ways in which they align their personal values with the expectations and norms of their profession.

Importantly, professional identity is not static; it develops over time as individuals gain experience, encounter new challenges and adapt to evolving professional norms and expectations. Components combine to shape professional identity:

  • Professional formation – The process of initial education and training, developing the knowledge and skills individuals need to step over the threshold from trainee to qualified patent attorney.
  • Values and beliefs – The set of values and beliefs that guide individuals’ actions and decision-making. These typically include ethics, integrity, responsibility, and a commitment to serving the interests of clients.
  • Professional associations and networks – CIPA, CITMA, the IP Federation and other associations influence professional identity, providing opportunities for learning, mentorship, the sharing of best practice and social networking.
  • Regulation – The rules established by IPReg shape professional identity by setting clear expectations for behaviour and professional conduct.
  • Workplace – Roles and responsibilities within the workplace underpin professional identity. The working environment is one of the biggest variables for a patent attorney: industry or private practice; large or small firm; career stage; all combine to provide a distinct sense of professional identity.
  • Ongoing competence – The continuous learning and adaptation required to maintain competence. For a patent attorney this involves keeping abreast of changes in patent law and practice, advancements in technology, advancements in subject specialism/s, and evolving best practice.

What does this mean for CPD and reflective practice?

Central to reflective practice is an understanding of self and an understanding of professional identity. For patent attorneys, it might be useful to think of professional identity has having three distinct but overlapping components:

  • Technical expertise – Related to the individual’s technical, scientific or engineering background and recognising that it is important to retain and enhance technical knowledge and understanding. CPD might come from membership of a technical professional body or membership association; individual reading, research or teaching; or other activities.
  • IP expertise – Related to IP law and practice. CPD might come from CIPA, through webinars, seminars, teaching or participating in the work of committees; from other professional bodies; from off-the-shelf or bespoke courses; or other activities.
  • Work context – Related to the employment circumstances of the individual. CPD might come from employer-led training; ‘non-core skills’ or ‘soft skills’ training in areas such as leadership, management, business, or mentoring; or other activities.

In any annual cycle, CPD may come from any or all of these areas and reflective practice provides a method for prioritising learning according to individual need.

Further reading

De Fina, A Schiffrin, D and Bamberg, M. (2009) Workplace narratives, professional identity and relational practice, Cambridge University Press (online).

Hurst Floyd, D, Longan, P and Floyd, T. (2020) The Formation of Professional Identity, Routledge, London.

Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: theory and practice, Kogan Page, London.

Schön, D. (1992) The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action, Routledge, London.

Thompson, N and Thompson, S. (2018) The Critically Reflective Practitioner, Red Globe Press (Bloomsbury), London.

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