The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 1, January 2010

Click here to view the PDF version of The Advisory

Non-Traditional Learning Plans Can Meet CPD Requirements

By John Higgerty, QC, Bencher and Chair, Continuing Professional Development Committee

Most, if not all, of our neighbouring law societies impose a certain number of compulsory classroom hours on their members as part of their annual Continuing Professional Development (CPD) obligations. The Law Society of Alberta, on the other hand, believes that individual lawyers know what learning plan works best for them. So we have adopted the self-directed approach. Lawyers making their annual CPD plans may consider non-traditional learning opportunities for their plans.

Every lawyer needs to declare to the Law Society of Alberta by March 15, 2010 that he or she has developed a Continuing Professional Development Plan. Declarations can be made online at or on the status update form.

Some suggested learning opportunities are:

New Call to the Bar

  • Too shy to speak in court or public? Pursue public speaking opportunities.
  • Uncomfortable with possible breach of privacy or reputation in social media channels? Consider conducting legal research.

Mid-Career Lawyer

  • Mentor a junior lawyer. Any teacher will tell you that the very act of teaching involves learning.
  • Review lists of favourite law blogs; search for new ones.
  • Volunteer at a legal aid clinic, one that offers training in issues likely to come up.

Senior Lawyer

  • Learn more about formal mentoring, consider if it would work in your firm.
  • Attend LESA courses such as Ethics: Risks of Practising Law in an Uncertain Economy or Multicultural Awareness for Lawyers.

Semi-Retired Lawyer

  • Make a succession plan as part of the sale or closing of your practice; there will probably be some learning involved.
  • Become proficient in matters such as staffing, document retention, business practices, etc.

In-House Counsel

  • Review and become updated on privacy laws. Keep attending Canadian Corporate Counsel Association events.
  • Review CBA Alberta’s Legislative update for recent legislation that may affect the organization.

About to go on Leave

  • Locate a mentor or lawyer who has been away on leave or sabbatical and returned to build a successful practice (learn survival tips).
  • Arrange to get firm circulars and mass emails and attend lunch n’ learns wherever possible.
  • Schedule a revision of your plan before returning to work.

Returning from Leave or Starting Solo Practice

  • Get and complete the S tart-Up manual from the Law Society of Alberta.
  • Buy and do a thorough review of the CPLED materials.
  • Complete relevant sections of any online office management course.
  • Complete the LESA online “Client ID and Verification” course and get the forms from the Law Society of Alberta’s website.
  • Complete tutorials for Quickbooks.
  • Look for opportunities to talk with other solo practitioners.

New rules on Continuing Professional Development (CPD) were approved by the Benchers in November 2008.

The Rules of the Law Society of Alberta and Code of Professional Conduct were amended to require that a lawyer:

  • make a Continuing Professional Development Plan and render it in written or electronic form,
  • declare to the Law Society of Alberta that he or she has done so each year, and
  • retain the record of the plan for 5 years, and provide it to the Law Society on request.

Every active lawyer needs to create and declare to the Law Society of Alberta that he or she has developed a Continuing Development Plan by March 15th of each year. As Alberta’s lawyers, we firmly maintain that we are serving the public interest. An ongoing CPD plan is just one small way that we prove it.

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