Benchers approve new rules implementing Continuing Professional Development

cpd logoAt their July meeting, the Benchers approved amendments to the Rules to implement the Law Society's new Continuing Professional Development program.

The Benchers' decision marks the first time that a Canadian law society has introduced a comprehensive continuing professional development requirement for all lawyers. The introduction of continuing professional development for lawyers in BC will assure the public that the Law Society is committed to establishing, maintaining and enhancing the standard of legal practice in the province.

In November 2007, the Benchers considered the former Lawyer Education Committee recommendations for a continuing professional development requirement and approved implementation for January 1, 2009. Following the November 2007 approval in principle, the Lawyer Education Advisory Committee sought and received input from lawyers and law-related organizations.

Responses were largely positive and the continuing professional development initiative was lauded nationally in the legal media. The concerns raised were largely about approved subject matter, geographic barriers and cost. In drafting the Rules and defining approved educational activities, the Committee made every attempt to address these concerns.

Effective January 1, 2009 the new Rules will require all practising lawyers — both full-time and part-time — to complete no fewer than 12 hours a year of continuing professional development in approved educational activities. No less than two of the 12 hours must pertain to any combination of professional responsibility and ethics, client care and relations, and practice management. Lawyers will be able to record and report professional development activities online at the Law Society's website and education providers will also be able to seek approval for courses online.

woman at workLawyers will also be reminded periodically during the year about how much of the requirement they have fulfilled and how much more they must do. The focus of the Law Society will be on assisting lawyers to meet the requirement through easy identification of approved courses online and through regular reminders. If the annual requirement of 12 hours is not met, lawyers will have until April 1 of the following year to meet the requirement, on payment of a late fee of $200. If the requirement is still not met by April 1, the lawyer may be suspended for non-completion on 60 days notice from the Law Society. The Practice Standards Committee will have the discretion to prevent or delay the suspension in special circumstances on application by a lawyer to do so.

Detailed information about the process for filing and obtaining approval of professional development activities will be provided to lawyers and legal education providers by mid-September. For more information, please contact Alan Treleaven, Director, Education and Practice at 604-605-5354 or atreleaven@lsbc.org.