The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 3, June 2010

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Lawyers Incorporate Continuing Professional Development as a Best Practice

By James Glass, QC, Bencher and Chair, Continuing Professional Development Committee, Law Society of Alberta

With the March 15, 2010 compliance deadline, the CPD program has recently completed its second year of operations.

The Law Society of Alberta CPD program requires each lawyer to be accountable for their own continuing professional development (CPD) through the development, declaration and implementation of a CPD plan. The program is designed to encourage a self-directed and life-long learning approach to professional development.

Continuing professional development for lawyers, the Law Society believes, is about more than just attending traditional courses and programs. Continuing professional development for lawyers includes a wide range of activities which contribute to a high level of competence and integrity in the practice of law.

The self-directed learning CPD program in Alberta differs from other jurisdictions which have adopted a minimum annual hourly requirement. The goal of CPD program is to ensure that each lawyer in Alberta strives for excellence in their practice through the mandatory annual planning and implementation of an effective continuing educational plan.

The Law Society of Alberta’s CPD regulatory requirement incorporates a flexible and self-directed learning approach recognizing that most lawyers regularly incorporate CPD into their practices.

This approach to CPD affirms the responsibility of each lawyer for the ongoing maintenance and improvement in the substantive, technical, practical or intellectual components of the practice of law. Although there is no mandatory minimum hourly requirement, the annual planning, declaration and implementation of a CPD by active lawyers practising in Alberta is mandatory.

While the numbers for compliance in year two have not yet been finalized, the Law Society hopes to meet or come close to achieving the same type of outstanding results and participation that we had in year one of the program. We have had some challenges this past year with the online declaration at the CPDAlberta website at The Law Society and Legal Education Society of Alberta (LESA) are working hard to solve these problems and the Law Society is confident that the online declaration will be fixed as we move into year three of the program.

Both the Law Society and LESA will continue to work towards providing programs which are of interest to the profession, and LESA is working towards being able to deliver those programs via the internet so that many of lawyers who reside and practise in rural areas or in small firms can attend these courses as well. For example, the LESA courses about the implementation of the new Rules of Court will be available on-line. Remember though that continuing professional development is more that just attending traditional courses and programs. For more information on continuing professional development ideas visit the Law Society of Alberta’s website at or the CPD Alberta website at

The Law Society of Alberta’s CPD program is a flexible and convenient method to ensure lawyers meet their professional duty of competence (Chapter 2 of the Code of Professional conduct). It also meets the Law Society’s public interest mandate by implementing a regulatory program to ensure the ongoing competence and professionalism of lawyers in Alberta.

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