The Advisory: Volume 9, Issue 2, August 2011

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Regular Review of Your CPD Plan Meets Ethical Obligations

By Susan Billington, QC, Program and Policy Counsel, Law Society of Alberta

THE CONTINUING Professional Development program completed its third declaration cycle on March 15, 2011 with a 99.5 per cent compliance rate.

“So, now what? Can I put all of this away until next March?” lawyers may be wondering.

First, the CPD rules not only require that you make and declare your CPD plan, the rule also requires that you to retain your plan for five years and produce it to the Law Society upon request. What happens if you don’t do this? This part of the rule has to do with accountability. Some have said that the Law Society’s CPD program lacks accountability in that we trust lawyers to make, declare and implement their CPD plan. We give lawyers the benefit of the doubt on the implementation of their CPD Plans…that is, until we have reason for doubt.

Recently, a hearing decision incorporated CPD planning and monitoring as part of its sanction against a lawyer. The Hearing Panel required the lawyer to produce the CPD plans and provide a report on activities for 2009 and 2010. Also in upcoming plans, the lawyer was required to include courses relating to civility, interest-based negotiation, the collaborative process and mediation, client management and relation and family law. For 2011, the lawyer was required to file the CPD plan and have quarterly updates regarding compliance with the Law Society’s Practice Review Manager.

Secondly, Chapter Two of the current Alberta Code of Professional Conduct outlines a lawyer’s ongoing obligation to maintain legal skills and knowledge, and to keep abreast of developments in the lawyer’s areas of practice. A lawyer should also seek to improve competence on an ongoing basis to facilitate optimum performance in each matter undertaken.

The new Code of Conduct which takes effect in Alberta on November 1, 2011 and which is based on the national Model Code, states that competence involves more than an understanding of legal principles: it involves an adequate knowledge of the practice and procedures by which such principles can be effectively applied. To accomplish this, the lawyer must keep current on developments in all areas of law in which the lawyer practises. Furthermore, the new Code provides that a lawyer has a duty to provide courteous, thorough and prompt service to clients. The quality of service required of a lawyer is that which is competent, timely, conscientious, diligent, efficient and civil.

How can lawyers ensure they meet this ethical standard of competence? A regular review of your CPD Plan and the steps you have taken to implement it will assist with this ethical obligation. If there is an area of law or practice in which you wish to improve or into which you wish to expand, make a plan to become competent in this new area; and revise your plan accordingly. For example, now is a good time to amend your plan to incorporate the new Code of Conduct and Trust Safety Rules into your CPD Plan.

More information is available on the Law Society’s website at To develop and/ or update your CPD profile and CPD Plan, go to the CPD Alberta website at

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