The Advisory: Volume 9, Issue 3, December 2011

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Developing a Proactive Approach to Continuing Competence

By Jim Glass, QC, Bencher and Chair of the Continuing Competence Committee, Law Society of Alberta

In the interests of protecting the public and in developing a robust and proactive competence program, the Continuing Competence Committee has begun its work to examine competence and quality assurance programs from other professions and other law societies (both Canadian and International).

The overriding goal in developing a proactive competence program is to ensure that lawyers incorporate best practices in delivering the highest possible standard of legal services to the public.

The approaches being examined by the Committee are quite varied and all involve developing a proactive approach to enhancing the quality of the delivery of services. The Committee will be reviewing these to determine which parts may be applicable to the legal profession in Alberta and then make recommendations to the Benchers.

To advance its goal of being a model regulator and to inform its work, the Competence Committee will also consider the systemic causes that lead to incompetence and poor quality legal service delivery and evaluate how a quality assurance program could be proactive in addressing those issues. A coordinated and multi-faceted approach is truly ideal. As many issues could contribute to the poor quality delivery of legal services, effectively targeting as many contributing factors of lawyer incompetence is key. The Committee will be considering all of these factors in arriving at recommendations for the program for the consideration by the Benchers and the profession.

The Law Society already sponsors many proactive services and programs which support the enhancement of lawyer competence including:

  • the Continuing Professional Development Program,
  • the Practice Advisors,
  • Mentor program,
  • SoloNet,
  • Equity Ombudsperson,
  • CanLII,
  • Law Society Libraries, and
  • Assist

On another topic, to guide its work, the Committee adopted the definition of Competence as it appears in the new Alberta Code of Conduct, in effect as of November 1, 2011. Chapter 2 articulates the ethical duty of competence required by every Alberta lawyer.

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