CEO's Perspective

Law Society continues to help build library of online courses

Timothy McGeeTimothy E. McGee

It may not surprise you to learn that the Law Society receives much feedback regarding continuing professional development (CPD) and the requirement for all lawyers to participate in at least 12 hours of ongoing education each year.

We are now in our second year of CPD and the Law Society remains committed to helping increase the number of available educational options for lawyers.

In particular, we are increasing the number of online courses and non-traditional options for earning educational credit.

For example, in September of this year, we partnered with Courthouse Libraries BC to offer the latest in online course offerings for BC lawyers. The Legal Research Essentials: Finding Cases on Point course is hosted on the Law Society website and is an introduction or refresher on using popular research tools to find relevant case law. Using well-produced video tutorials, the course demonstrates online and print research options. It takes one hour to complete and is approved for one CPD credit.

Law Society online coursesSince 2006, the Law Society itself has offered several online courses to address some of the key practice management issues that can lead to problems we often see as regulators. In addition to being free, our online courses offer lawyers the flexibility to earn their education credits anytime, anywhere and at their own pace.

The Small Firm PracticeCourse was the first online course offered by the Law Society and is mandatory for all lawyers commencing practice in a firm of four lawyers or less. To date, it has been completed by about 1,100 lawyers, taking about six to eight hours to complete and qualifying for six education credits. Topics include trust accounting, HST reporting, conflicts of interest and office management. In 2007 the course was awarded the top prize in the “Best Technology” category by the international Association for Continuing Legal Education.

Since the vast majority of complaints we receive from clients relate to poor communication in some form or another, we created the Communication Toolkit course, which describes common problem areas and provides tips on how communication can be improved. This course was introduced in late 2008 and has been taken by over 300 lawyers. Completion of the Communication Toolkit counts for two hours of professional development credit and meets the annual requirement for two hours of course work covering professional responsibility and ethics.

We also offer the Practice Refresher course, which we introduced in late 2008 primarily to assist lawyers who wish to resume practice after a leave of absence or who are venturing into a new area of practice. The course comprises seven modules covering various areas of practice, including small claims, Supreme Court, wills and estate planning, probate and estate administration, real estate, corporate commercial law and family law.

Of course the Practice Refresher course is not designed to be a complete knowledge base for each area of law, but rather attempts to capture highlights and to provide an overview of core concepts. Up to six CPD credits can be claimed by taking the Practice Refresher course.

As of mid November 2010, over 1,700 lawyers have taken our online classes.

But our courses are a mere drop in the bucket compared to all the other educational choices available to lawyers.

By logging into the member-only section of our website, lawyers can learn about literally hundreds of course options, many of them online. And of course, there are several other ways to earn education credits that don’t involve a classroom including, among others, attending CBA and other bar association meetings, mentoring or being mentored, participating in a study group and writing articles.

The Law Society welcomes your feedback. Please let us know if you have any ideas or suggestions as to how we can improve the CPD program. You can contact me directly or send an email to Debra DeGaust in our practice standards group at DDeGaust@lsbc.org.