Benchers approve Lawyer Education Task Force’s preliminary report

Toward mandatory continuing professional development

The Benchers approved the Lawyer Education Task Force’s preliminary report at their December meeting, taking a first step toward making continuing professional development mandatory for BC’s practising lawyers.

“We are planning a novel approach to mandatory continuing professional development, unlike anything seen in North America to date,” said Task Force Chair Gordon Turriff, QC as he briefed the Benchers on the report’s background and its recommendations.

Stressing the significance and time-sensitivity of the issue, he said, “For 25 to 30 years the debate has waxed and waned in BC, without action. In the meantime, jurisdictions in other parts of the world have marched ahead. This is an opportunity for the Benchers to do something both important and overdue.”

The Task Force’s preliminary report sets out four broad options and recommends them for further consideration: 1) a program requiring a certain number of hours of study, of which a portion requires the study of certain subjects; 2) a program of required courses for all lawyers, with the remainder of hours to be made up of activities chosen by lawyers; 3) a program of required courses for certain areas of practice; and 4) a program requiring a certain number of hours of study through approved activities. The report emphasizes that credit for professional development activity should not be limited to course study, but should be extended to a broad range of activities, including:

  • accredited and non-accredited courses (whether preparing, delivering or attending);
  • coaching and mentoring programs;
  • in-house programs;
  • professional group attendance;
  • study groups;
  • writing; and
  • teaching PLTC.

In March 2004, the Benchers approved Task Force recommendations calling for mandatory reporting of BC lawyers’ post-call continuing education activity, and setting annual minimum expectations of 12 hours for course study and 50 hours for self-study. The Task Force reviewed mandatory reporting results for 2005 and found that just over one-third of respondents reported no hours of “formal” course study. Also noted was that the number of lawyers reporting no formal education activity in 2005 increased with seniority: 19% of lawyers with less than five years call reported no formal study, compared to 54% of those with 30 years or more at the bar.

Mandatory continuing professional development would serve the Law Society’s statutory requirement to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice by, among other things, establishing standards for the education, professional responsibility and competence of its members, the Task Force reported. Also noted was that making participation in a program of continuing professional development a condition of practice would demonstrate to the public the Law Society’s commitment to ensuring that BC lawyers maintain a continued level of competence after their call to the bar.

The Lawyer Education Task Force will review the four noted options and will present a recommended program to the Benchers by the end of 2007. Implementation of the new program is anticipated in early 2009.

For more information, please contact Alan Treleaven, Director of Education and Practice, at 604 605-5354 or