Remember your professional development in 2005

BC lawyers are reminded of the requirement to report to the Law Society in 2005 on their professional development (continuing legal education) activities for the preceding 12 months.

Each practising lawyer reports this information as part of an Annual Practice Declaration at the same time his or her law firm files its annual Trust Report. Filing deadlines in 2005 vary from firm to firm, and the Law Society’s trust review staff provides more information to all firms in advance of their respective dates. Practising lawyers who are exempt from insurance, such as in-house counsel and Crown Counsel, will file their Annual Practice Declaration in September.

The Benchers encourage each practising lawyer in BC to complete a minimum of 12 hours of coursework (the equivalent of two full course days) and 50 hours of self-study each year. The targets are set as minimum expectations for the profession and are not mandatory.

For BC lawyers, staying current on the law has always been a matter of professional responsibility. Rule 1, Chapter 3 of the Handbook provides that, with respect to each area of law in which a lawyer practises, he or she must acquire and maintain adequate knowledge of the substantive law, knowledge of the practice and procedures by which that substantive law can be effectively applied and skills to represent the client’s interests effectively.

By setting recommended minimum expectations for professional development coursework and self-study and by requiring BC lawyers to report on their professional development, the Benchers have affirmed their commitment and that of the profession to continuing legal education and to collecting comprehensive data for tracking continuing education in the profession and determining the future needs of BC lawyers.

A lawyer who does not meet the recommended minimum expectations for professional development, or takes no professional development over the course of a year, faces no consequences on reporting that fact to the Law Society — with one exception. If complaints or concerns have arisen over a lawyer’s competency, and if the Practice Standards Committee orders a review of that lawyer’s practice, the lawyer’s record of professional development activities may be considered in the course of the practice review and be noted in the resulting practice review report. As a result, the issue could be considered by the Practice Standards Committee or by a hearing panel should the lawyer’s conduct or competence ultimately warrant a formal hearing.

Lawyers will be asked to report the continuing legal education courses and programs they have attended in the preceding 12 months, and also to specify how much of that time was devoted to professional ethics or practice management material. They will also be asked to report on the hours they devoted to self-study during that period, excluding any research or review of material undertaken in connection with specific files in their practice.

The Lawyer Education Task Force is developing guidelines to assist lawyers in determining what constitutes coursework and what constitutes self-study. In general terms, it is anticipated that reported hours of coursework will include time a lawyer has committed to:

  • live programs, workshops and conferences, such as those offered by the CLE Society of BC, Trial Lawyers Association of BC, Canadian Bar Association, Federation of Law Societies and other continuing legal education providers,
  • in-house legal education programs offered to employees by law firms and in-house legal departments,
  • telephone programs, such as teleseminars,
  • interactive online programs, such as those of the CLE Society of BC,
  • video replay programs in an organized group setting,
  • organized education discussion groups, such as at CBA section meetings,
  • participation in a post-LL.B. degree program, and
  • preparation for and teaching in PLTC, continuing professional education programs and law school programs.

Reported hours of self-study are expected to include hours a lawyer has spent in the study of legal material in the following media:

  • print material (such as publications of continuing legal education providers, legal texts, case law and articles in the Advocate, Law Society publications, Canadian Bar Review, BarTalk and other legal journals),
  • internet material, including online versions of the publications noted above,
  • CD-ROM,
  • videotape (other than in an organized group setting), and
  • audiotape.

As noted, lawyers will receive more information on the filing of their Annual Practice Declaration in advance of their next filing deadline.

If you have any questions about reporting on professional development activities, please contact Alan Treleaven, Director of Education and Practice, at atreleaven@lsbc.org or 604 605-5354 (toll-free within BC 1-800-903-5300).