Young Lawyers, SMART Career Goals and CPD


Discover how you can accelerate your professional growth with SMART career goals and legal CPD.

The CPD deadline is getting closer and young lawyers across Australia are doing their best to find CPD that suits their professional development needs. It can feel overwhelming with the myriad of CPD options at your disposal. How can you comply with the rules and find CPD that will help your professional growth? If you're a lawyer at the start of your career, we've put together a few tips to help you get the most out of your CPD. 


Know the rules in your jurisdiction

First things first, you need to take the time to understand the CPD rules that apply in your jurisdiction. This is time well spent as failing to comply with your local CPD rules can have serious consequences - you can even be found guilty of professional misconduct. How many points do you need to be able to renew your practising certificate? What counts as a CPD activity? What competency areas do I need to cover? Check out our guide to the CPD requirements to learn the rules in your jurisdiction.


Identify your knowledge gaps

What challenges have you faced in the past year that you've found especially difficult? Have you been given a task during this time that piqued your interest in a certain area of law? During the year, have you become aware of a skill you need to improve upon? CPD is a great opportunity for professional growth as it allows you to explore new areas of the law or refine your existing skills. 


Focus on skills to help your professional growth

The legal profession is more competitive than ever. In addition to identifying skills you want to develop or improve upon, you can also look at the trends in the profession to get an idea of what skills will be required of lawyers in the future. These are just some of the skills that future lawyers must master: 

  • Technological competency; 
  • business acumen;
  • client management;
  • sales and marketing; 
  • cultural awareness;
  • emotional intelligence; and
  • mental health and resilience. 
Man pointing at graph


You can learn more about these skills in our article focusing on the seven skills you need to power your professional growth.


Set SMART career goals

Once you have a list of skills you’d like to develop, it’s a perfect time to set SMART career goals. You might have heard the term before as it’s often used in business and in marketing but why not apply it to your professional growth and CPD as well?

SMART is an acronym that sets out five key concepts for goal-setting:



Your goal needs to be well defined and clear. You have a much greater chance of accomplishing goals which are specific than those which are vague or too general. 


Each goal must also have a criteria you can use for measuring progress. If you don’t measure your progress, how can you know if you're on the right track? It can be challenging in the beginning to see which criteria to use to make your goal measurable but you can start by asking yourself: how much time do I spend on certain tasks each day? Do I want to reduce or increase this? Try to make your goals quantifiable. 


Is your goal achievable and attainable? Remember, you want to make it difficult enough so that you feel challenged but you don’t want it to be so far fetched it becomes unrealistic. Setting achievable and attainable goals makes it easier for you to find ways to work towards these and feel a sense of accomplishment.


Given the resources and time available to you, is the goal realistic? You should also ask yourself how relevant it is for your future career as lawyer. 


A goal needs to be time bound with a clear start and finish date. This will give you a timeline of when your goal needs to be achieved. If you don’t put a time-constraint on your goal you’ll lose your sense of urgency and it’ll probably get prioritised down against your competing responsibilities.

So how can you set SMART career goals for yourself? Here is one example for a person who wants to spend less time doing emails.


“I want to spend 30 minutes less each week of my billable time answering and sorting emails. I will complete the course Working Effectively with Email by January 2021 then measure my progress over the following three months.”


This is a suitable SMART career goal because it is: 

  • specific, as it identifies a clear problem (time spent on email) and a clear solution (competing suitable CPD training); 
  • measurable, as it clearly identifies the time saving targeted (30 minutes/week); 
  • achievable, yes, this should be attainable; 
  • realistic, as suitable CPD training has already been identified;
  • timely, there is a set timeframe for completing the CPD training, and for measuring the results. 

What skills do you want to develop during the year? How relevant is the skill for your future as a lawyer? What courses can help you achieve this? How can you measure your progress? Answering these questions will help you to set SMART career goals, and to leverage your CPD to power your professional growth.

Learn from the experts

The time and money that you spend on your CPD is an important investment. So when you're choosing courses, make sure that you learn from the experts. By learning from an authority in the field, the quality of the content is not only more likely to be higher but you're more likely to see issues from different perspectives and gain invaluable insights. 

Take the opportunity and make the most of your CPD. By knowing the rules, identifying knowledge gaps as well as being attuned to the skills you’ll need to stay competitive, you can make your CPD a valuable experience that will contribute to your professional growth.

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