On 1 July 2023, the requirement for patent attorneys to maintain ongoing competence as set out by IPreg’s regulatory arrangements changed.

Patent attorneys are now expected to reflect on their learning and evaluate how it contributes to their professional development.

Reflective practice enables professionals to become more self-aware, enhance their critical thinking, and promote continuous improvement; in short, following a cycle of: plan, do, observe, and reflect.

Reflective practices acknowledges that not all learning is planned, and that adventitious or serendipitous learning is of equal value and can be recorded. It is more than evaluating the impact of a single learning activity in isolation and works best when you include the following activities into your professional life:

  • Reflect regularly: set time aside to reflect on your experiences, activities, or interactions with clients or colleagues.
  • Maintain a journal: a log of your learning experiences and your thoughts and reflections on your professional practice.
  • Seek feedback: from peers, colleagues, mentors, or others to gain different perspectives on your professional practice.
  • Set clear learning objectives: based on your reflections and identifying specific areas for improvement or action.
  • Learn systematically: engage in learning activities such as reading, workshops, courses, webinars, or conferences to expand your knowledge and skills.
  • Share learning: engage in professional conversations with peers, colleagues, mentors, or others to reinforce your learning and to encourage collaborative learning and exchange of ideas.
  • Apply learning: take what you have learned through reflection and through learning activities and apply it in your professional practice.
  • Monitor progress: regularly review your progress towards your learning objectives and adjust your action plan accordingly.

Including reflective practices in your work life can help shape your professional identity. Professional identity can be considered the combination of the sense of self and set of values, beliefs, and qualities that individuals association with their profession. It encompasses how individuals perceive themselves as professionals, how they identify within their role in the workplace, and how they align personal values with expectations of the profession.

Importantly, professional identity is not static, but rather it develops as individuals gain experience, counter new challenges, and adapt to evolving professional expectations. Components combine to shape professional identity include:

  • 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.

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

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