Continuing professional development program moves forward

The Benchers have approved the framework for a new Continuing Professional Development program that endorses a wide range of learning opportunities.

“One of our goals is to ensure lawyers can meet the requirements of the new program through a variety of educational opportunities,” said Lawyer Education Committee chair Bruce LeRose, QC. “When the program starts in 2009 we want lawyers to be able to select the type of learning that suits them and their practices best.”

The committee’s recommendations go far beyond conventional, classroom-based courses and endorse non-traditional educational programs such as CBA section meetings, teaching, in-house seminars, on-line courses and writing.

“We want to encourage not just education, but also engagement in learning,” said LeRose of Thompson, LeRose & Brown in Trail. “The practice of law requires interaction with other lawyers and discussion of ideas. We want this to become part of our learning culture.”

Implementation of a continuing professional development program recognizes that the Legal Profession Act requires the Law Society to establish educational standards for lawyers as part of its duty to protect the public interest.

Law Society statistics also suggest that many lawyers are neglecting their professional development obligations. Since 2005, when mandatory reporting of professional development was introduced, almost one-third of the profession has reported no formal course study and nearly one-fifth have reported no self-study. In addition, the number of lawyers reporting no professional development increases with age.

In December 2006, the Benchers agreed in principle that there was a need for a continuing professional development program and established the Lawyer Education Committee to develop the concept.

Throughout 2007, the committee met with a number of law-related groups, including the BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association, the Trial Lawyers Association, the Continuing Legal Education Society and the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, to discuss the proposal.

The program approved by the Benchers will require all practising lawyers — both full-time and part-time — to complete not fewer than 12 hours a year of continuing professional development in approved educational activities. Not 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 required to report professional development activities annually, although it has not yet been determined whether to use existing forms or a new reporting mechanism.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for all lawyers, regardless of where they practise and what stage of their careers they’re at to find educational opportunities,” LeRose explained. “Lawyers are the last profession to adopt mandatory professional education and it’s time we started demonstrating that we take the issue seriously.”

The committee will make a final report to the Benchers by July 2008 and the program is scheduled to start January 1, 2009. Detailed information will be available before the program begins.

The Lawyer Education Committee’s report is now on the Law Society’s website. The Law Society welcomes comments and questions from the profession. Send them to Alan Treleaven, Director, Education and Practice at

Continuing professional development program – approved activities

The Benchers have already approved a wide variety of education activities for the Continuing Professional Development Program:

  • attendance in person, as well as online or by telephone, provided there is an opportunity to ask questions, at courses offered by the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC, the Trial Lawyers’ Association of BC, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the Law Society of BC or a Canadian law school;
  • attendance in person, as well as online or by telephone, provided there is an opportunity to ask questions, at Law Society-approved, law-related courses offered by other organizations;
  • video repeats of an approved course provided it is done with one or more other lawyers so there is an opportunity for discussion;
  • completion of an online self-study course offered by a provider approved by the Law Society, provided that a testing component is included in the course;
  • teaching a law-related course (one hour of teaching will equal three hours of reporting credits to take into account preparation time);
  • attending CBA section meetings or education-related activities offered by a local or county Bar association;
  • participation in (including teaching at) an education program offered by a lawyer’s firm or employer provided the program is offered in a group setting;
  • participation in a study group of two or more people provided the group’s study focuses on law related activities. Guidelines for study groups are still being developed;
  • writing law books or articles relating to the study or practice of law for publication.