The CLE course voucher program, piloted in 2000 and 2001, did not prove to be an incentive sufficient to boost CLE attendance as hoped, and will not be offered again in 2002. The Benchers, however, remain committed to assisting lawyers with their continuing legal education - and are seeking a more effective means to increase access to CLE, especially outside the Lower Mainland, and to better assist those lawyers who are unable to afford CLE.

CLE voucher program discontinued in 2002

For the past two years, the Law Society has offered each insured lawyer in B.C. two $150 vouchers as discounts against courses offered by the Continuing Legal Education Society - an immediate financial incentive designed to encourage lawyers to attend more courses.

The voucher program was a pilot project that, on analysis, has failed to meet its objectives, and the Benchers agreed with a staff recommendation in October that it be discontinued in 2002.

The increase in overall CLE course registrations during the pilot did not meet program objectives. Notably, there was also no significant increase in the number of first-time CLE registrants, nor any change in the registration pattern of lawyers who had previously attended CLE. From the pilot project, it would appear that the cost of courses is not the most significant factor for most lawyers in deciding on their CLE commitments.

There may be other factors at play that need exploration - such as lawyers' concern over time away from the office to attend courses, or the cost of travel and accommodation for those lawyers who must travel to courses.

The Benchers are committed to encouraging continuing legal education in the profession and providing financial support for new initiatives that may prove more effective than either the course voucher program or the system of loss prevention credits that preceded it.

As the course voucher program has been funded by the Lawyers Insurance Fund, the importance of loss prevention in CLE courses and other resources remains an objective. The needs of lawyers outside the Vancouver Lower Mainland are also an important consideration, as are the needs of those lawyers who truly require financial assistance to attend courses and who may require a subsidy.

As staff canvass alternative approaches for supporting continuing legal education in the coming months, B.C. lawyers are invited to relay any suggestions or questions to Chief Financial Officer, Neil Stajkowski, or Chief Knowledge Officer, Adam Whitcombe, at the Law Society office.