Why lawyers shouldn’t be educated

Isaac AsimovI came across the following quotation from Isaac Asimov the other day:

People think of education as something they can finish.

This made me think about lawyers’ (and other professionals’) attitudes towards education. For most of us, our professional “education” is something that lies firmly in our past. Our LinkedIn profiles mention our education well down the page, after the “summary” (i.e. “elevator pitch”), “experience” (i.e. list of current and previous jobs) and “skills and expertise” (i.e. random endorsements from people we met at a networking event in 2009).

Each year, we undergo our mandatory sixteen hours or whatever of “continuing professional development”. In some walks of life, this is called “continuing professional education“, but presumably the legal profession felt this to be too narrowly academic – or perhaps to carry too uncomfortable an implication that practising lawyers still need to be “educated”, rather than simply to “develop” what they had attained by the end of a completed education that now lies in the past.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. While I am no CPD sceptic, and always appreciate a good course or seminar that helps me “develop” as a lawyer, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen CPD as an opportunity for education – with the positive implications that word has for expanding one’s mind and horizons and growing as a person, rather than as just a collection of “skills and expertise”. This despite my enthusiasm for self-education in other areas of my life.

Hence the title to this post: lawyers shouldn’t be “educated” in the passé simple sense of a completed process that lies entirely in the past. Rather, we should be in a “present continuous” state of “always being educated”.

So perhaps that can be my belated professional new year’s resolution for 2014: to engage in some continuing professional education this year, as well as just “doing my CPD”. After all, my employer’s parent company has as its motto a phrase of which I’m (whisper it) actually rather fond: