For_Lawyers_2

CPD-Logo_2015_150pxGeneral Information

This page is under revision to reflect the program changes approved at the September 2016 Bencher meeting.  

Introduction

Competencies:
1. Ethics and Professionalism
2. Substantive Legal Knowledge
3. Oral and Written Communication, Analytical and Research Skills
4. Client Relationship Management
5. Practice Management
6. Wellness
7. Other

Reflective Practice

Repercussions of Failing to Declare

Additional Information

Introduction

In 2008, the Law Society of Alberta introduced Continuing Professional Development requirements for lawyers in Alberta. This was done through the creation of Rules 67.1 and 67.2. These rules state:

67.1 (1) “Continuing professional development” is any learning activity that is:

(a) relevant to the professional needs of a lawyer;
(b) pertinent to long-term career interests as a lawyer;
(c) in the interests of the employer of a lawyer or
(d) related to the professional ethics and responsibilities of lawyers.

(2) Continuing professional development must contain significant substantive, technical, practical or intellectual content.

(3) It is each lawyer’s responsibility to determine whether a learning activity meets these criteria and therefore qualifies as continuing professional development.

67.2 During the twelve month period commencing March 16 of each year, every active member shall:

(a) prepare and make a record of a plan for his or her continuing professional development;
(b) make a declaration confirming compliance with (a) above in a form acceptable to the Executive Director;
(c) maintain a record of the plan for five years from the date of declaration; and
(d) produce a copy of the record of the plan to the Executive Director on request.

The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program has continued to develop in subsequent years, undergoing an evaluation in 2012, done by Charis Management Consulting Inc. This evaluation showed that lawyers, for the most part, accept and support the CPD program. The program has increased lawyers’ abilities to self-evaluate and the evaluation shows follow through with learning activities and monitoring and evaluation of progress. Through the evaluation process, lawyers indicated that the CPD program does contribute to their professional development and facilitates continuous learning and improved competency.

In the early years of the program, lawyers could declare the creation of their annual CPD plan online or on the member information form, completed each year upon payment of membership fees. In 2014 and 2015, lawyers were required to declare their plan online but were able to create their plan off-line. All online components were on the CPDAlberta.ca website.

In 2015, the Law Society of Alberta developed its online Lawyer Portal. This portal allows lawyers to pay their fees online, update contact information and complete other requirements quickly and easily. Lawyers were required to pay membership fees through the online Member Portal in 2015.

Beginning in 2016, all lawyers will be required to declare their CPD plan through the Lawyer Portal. Lawyers will be required to access one website for all of their membership requirements, resulting in ease of use and familiarity with one system, rather than two.

Also beginning in 2016, all lawyers will be required to develop their plan online, through the Lawyer Portal using a standard template. The 2012 evaluation process found that use of the CPD plan template improved the quality of members’ plans. Additionally, it found that members requested a template. Having a standard template, used by all lawyers in Alberta, will ensure that all lawyers are going a consistent process in the development of their CPD plans. The Lawyer Portal will be able to store multiple years’ worth of plans. However, the Portal is not an archive and lawyers will still be responsible, under the Rules, to maintain a copy of their plan for their records and the five year retention requirement. The Portal does contain the ability to print plans to accommodate this requirement.

While the CPD program is a mandatory requirement for all active lawyers in Alberta, it has been, and will continue to be, a flexible and convenient method to ensure lawyers meet their professional duty of competence and meets the Law Society’s public interest mandate by implementing a regulatory program to ensure the ongoing competence and professionalism of lawyers in Alberta. In this way, the program is not only of value to lawyers who may be struggling with their practice but supports and encourages all lawyers, even those with significant seniority and high knowledge and skill levels, to improve their competence in a way that best addresses their own personal practice needs.

While the flexibility and convenience of the current CPD program is maintained, the Law Society of Alberta is adding guidance to lawyers to better help them determine their ongoing professional development needs to ensure they remain competent.

Rule 2 of the Code of Conduct of the Law Society of Alberta states that “A lawyer must perform all legal services undertaken on a client’s behalf to the standard of a competent lawyer.” This rule is followed by helpful commentary regarding what is a competent lawyer.

In furtherance of compliance with this Rule, the Law Society of Alberta is shifting its focus from a substantive law approach to a competencies approach in its efforts to ensure the ongoing competence and professionalism of lawyers in Alberta. This approach looks beyond the substantive knowledge that lawyers are required to have for their practice area(s) and take a more comprehensive approach to the practice as a whole. This focus has come about, in part, due to the complaint history of the Law Society. The complaint history indicates that while substantive areas are important, the biggest risk to lawyers is a weakness in practice management, client relationships and ethics and professionalism. These are all areas of focus in a competency based approach.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has identified a National Entry to Practice Competency Profile for Lawyers and Quebec Notaries. The Law Society of Alberta has used this as guidance for those competencies that are required not only upon entry to practice but throughout the career of a lawyer. The integration of competencies into the CPD program was identified in the 2012 evaluation as something members want.

The competencies approach helps fulfill the goals and objectives of the Law Society’s CPD program. The goal is to enhance lawyer competence and to be accountable to the public for the ongoing professional development and competence of lawyers. The objective is to ensure that each lawyer in Alberta strives for excellence in the delivery of legal services through the mandatory annual planning and implementation of an effective CPD Plan. The Law Society of Alberta's CPD Program is structured to foster a self-directed and life-long learning approach to continuing professional development that enhances and ensures lawyer competence.

Competencies

1.   Ethics and Professionalism: (mandatory) - This competency requires a lawyer to possess not only knowledge of legal ethics but the skill to apply legal ethics in practice and conduct him or herself with professionalism as a representative of the Court and the justice system in Alberta.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency include:

-    Identify and resolve ethical issues and problems
-    Engage in critical thinking about ethical issues
-    Make informed and reasoned decisions about ethical issues
-    Use client conflict management system
-    Identify need for independent legal advice
-    Use time tracking, limitation reminder and bring forward systems
-    Use systems for trust accounting, general accounting, client records and files, billing and collection
-    Use practice checklists
-    Cultural / intercultural competency training
-    Diversity and anti-racism training
-    Human rights training

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency include but are not limited to:

-    Attend a continuing legal education course
-    Participate in a legal ethics forum
-    Engage in online discussion and debate
-    Review the Code of Conduct
-    Attend a seminar on conflicts of interest
-    Attend cultural education events
-    Participate in an access to justice workshop

2.    Substantive Legal Knowledge: This competency requires that a lawyer maintain an understanding of the core legal concepts applicable to the practice of law in Canada, including knowledge of Substantive Law relevant to the individual practice of each lawyer.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency include:
-    Constitutional Law
-    Charter of Rights and Freedoms
-    Human Rights Principles
-    Aboriginal Rights
-    Principles of Common Law
-    Administration of Law in Canada
-    Statutory Construction and Interpretation
-    Contract law
-    Property/Real Estate Law – conduct real estate transactions
-    Torts/Civil Litigation
-    Family Law
-    Corporate/Commercial Law
-    Wills and Estates
-    Criminal Law
-    Administrative Law
-    Evidence Law
-    Rules of Procedures
-    Alternative Dispute Resolution processes
-    Ability to conduct matter, draft necessary documents and conduct appropriate transactions/activities for above substantive law areas

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency include but are not limited to:

-    Attend a continuing legal education course
-    Read a textbook
-    Review case law
-    Attend a legal conference
-    Receive one on one instruction from a senior practitioner (not in the course of day to day work)
-    Attend a legal refresher seminar
-    Attend an updates in law seminar
-    Complete collaborative law program
-    Achieve mediator designation
-    Write a textbook
-    Present at a continuing legal education conference
-    Instruct a substantive law course
-    Publish a case commentary
-    Attend substantive law webinars
-    Become a member of and attend lunch and learns offered by your local CBA subsections

3.    Oral and Written Communication, Analytical and Research Skills: This competency requires a lawyer to possess strong oral and written communication skills to effectively represent clients and communicate professionally and effectively, as necessary for his or her practice. It also requires a lawyer to effectively identify issues and analyze problems on behalf of clients, as well as properly research those issues and problems to properly advise clients. 

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency include:
-    Use correct grammar and spelling
-    Use language suitable to the purpose of the communication and intended audience
-    Elicit information from clients and others
-    Explain the law in appropriate language to the audience
-    Obtain instructions
-    Effectively formulate and present well-reasoned and accurate legal argument, analysis, advice or submissions
-    Advocate in a manner appropriate to the legal and factual context
-    Negotiate in a manner appropriate to the legal and factual context
-    Identify client’s goals and objectives
-    Identify relevant facts, and legal, ethical and practical issues
-    Analyze the results of research
-    Identify due diligence required
-    Apply the law to the legal and factual context
-    Assess possible courses of action and a range of likely outcomes
-    Identify and evaluate the appropriateness of alternatives for resolution of the issue or dispute
-    Conduct factual research
-    Conduct legal research including identify legal issues; select relevant sources and methods; use techniques of legal reasoning and argument, such as case analysis and statutory interpretation, to analyse legal issues; identify, interpret and apply results of research
-    Effectively communicating the results of research

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency include but are not limited to:
-    Attend a writing course
-    Publish an article
-    Read a textbook on writing and grammar
-    Proofread other’s writing
-    Participate in Toastmasters
-    Attend an advocacy course
-    Learn how to use a legal research database
-    Attend a logic course
-    Act as a mooting judge
-    Write a textbook
-    Present at a continuing legal education conference
-    Instruct a substantive law course
-    Publish a case commentary

4.    Client Relationship Management: This competency requires a lawyer to manage client relationships and interact effectively with clients in person, online and on the telephone. This involves managing client expectations, remaining in communication with clients and balancing the needs of all clients.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency include:
-    Manage client relationships, including establish and maintain client confidence and manage client expectations throughout the retainer
-    Develop legal strategy in light of client’s circumstances such as diversity, age, language, disability, socioeconomic and cultural context
-    Advise client in light of client’s circumstances such as diversity, age, language, disability, socioeconomic and cultural context
-    Maintain client communications
-    Document advice given to and instructions received from client
-    Interview potential client
-    Confirm who is client / who is being represented
-    Confirm client’s identity pursuant to applicable standards / rules
-    Asses client’s capacity and fitness
-    Confirm who will provide instructions
-    Draft retainer / engagement letter
-    Discuss and set fees and retainer
-    Address outstanding client concerns
-    Draft exit / reporting letter

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency include but are not limited to:
-    Attend a continuing legal education course
-    Attend a workshop for professionals
-    Read a textbook
-    Attend a “know your client” session
-    Attend a fraud awareness class
-    Attend a “dealing with difficult people” seminar
-    Attend an interpersonal communications workshop
-    Attend a conflict management program

5.    Practice Management: This competency requires a lawyer to run their business practice appropriately and in compliance with all legislative requirements, to manage office staff, manage files and manage finances.

Examples of areas of learning and knowledge that apply to this competency include:
-    Manage time, including prioritize and manage tasks, and track deadlines
-    Delegate tasks and provide appropriate supervision
-    Manage files, including opening/closing files, checklist development, file storage/destruction
-    Manage finances, including trust accounting
-    Manage professional responsibilities, including ethical, licensing and other professional responsibilities
-    Learn about information management and protection of privacy
-    Learn about electronic information management

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency include but are not limited to:
-    Develop a succession plan for emergency planning purposes and / or retirement
-    Attend a session on trust accounting requirements
-    Attend a course on effective time management practices
-    Read a textbook on time management skills
-    Work with a practice management coach to improve overall practice management skills
-    Attend information sessions on storing data in the cloud
-    Take a seminar on best practices for social media
-    Attend a session on privacy legislation and protecting client data
-    Learn about employee engagement and effective employee management
-    Attend a financial intelligence class
-    Learn to use a budgeting tool
-    Review resources from ARMA International (formerly known as the Association of Records Managers and Administrators) and AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management)
-    Attend a conflict management program
-    Attend a working with others program
-    Attend a seminar in alternate service delivery or non-traditional billing practices
-    Take a computer skills course
-    Participate in an access to justice workshop

6.    Wellness: This competency requires a lawyer to maintain awareness of his or her mental and physical health and wellness and identify ways to maintain a healthy practice

Examples of areas learning and knowledge that apply to this competency include:
-    Healthy eating habits
-    Healthy sleep habits
-    Ability to identify appropriate work life balance
-    Exercise practices
-    Mental health awareness
-    Financial wellness
-    Stress reduction techniques

Examples of CPD activities to meet this competency include but are not limited to:
-    Regular physical activity
-    Engage a personal trainer
-    Engage a life coach
-    Attend a healthy eating seminar
-    Attend a cooking course focused on healthy eating
-    Regular meditation
-    Annual physical exam
-    Quit smoking
-    Reduce alcohol consumption
-    Improve sleep patterns
-    Attend a sleep clinic
-    Schedule regular vacations
-    Plan regular time with family and friends
-    Schedule “down time”
-    Unplug from electronic devices regularly
-    Run or bike to work
-    Take regular lunch breaks
-    Visit with a counsellor
-    Volunteer with ASSIST
-    Implement recommendations, in your workplace, from the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace
-    Take an anger management course
-    Attend a stress management class
-    Sign up for financial management lessons
-    Identify substance abuse support services
-    Complete the Canadian Bar Association’s Mental Health and Wellness in the Legal Profession online course

7.    Other: This category is for anything not captured in the previous competencies that will be of benefit to your practice. As each practice and each practitioner is unique, this category allows for the addition of activities specific to your needs that will maintain, develop or improve your competence. As this is your plan, this area allows you to further personalize your development activities.

A mix of formal and informal learning will help ensure a robust plan that meets the desired outcomes. There are many resources available to access professional development activities including the Canadian Bar Association, Legal Education Society of Alberta, Universities of Calgary and Alberta Faculties of Law, Law Societies and Legal Education providers in other jurisdictions, local continuing education programs, online education providers, and many others.

Through a consideration of specific competencies, lawyers should think holistically about their competence more broadly in the specific practice setting in which the lawyer is located so that activities they select have value and a positive impact on their practice.

Reflective Practice

The Law Society, through its Continuing Professional Development program, encourages all Alberta lawyers to develop a “reflective practice.” Reflective practice has become a much used and researched term in recent years and describes a more engaged method of self-assessment and reflection in assessing competence.

In completing their CPD plan and following through on it, lawyers are expected to reflect on their practice, including their skills to deliver the services required of their speciality; be critical of their knowledge, including assessing what is done well, deficiencies, areas for improvement and areas of new law or learning to acquire; and conduct self-reflection on their practice, values and aspirations. By completing these self-assessments when developing a CPD plan, lawyers should recognize areas for learning and growth that can be built into their life-long legal learning. Lawyers should ask themselves what skills and knowledge need improvement; if any ethical issues have arisen that should be explored; and what opportunities exist to access education to meet the lawyer’s CPD needs.

It is for this reason that, in order to meet the requirements of a CPD plan, lawyers must conduct a needs assessment in order to build their learning objectives and priorities for the year. Taking a reflective practice approach to CPD planning ensure that, as noted above, the program is not only of value to lawyers who may be struggling with their practice but supports and encourages all lawyers, even those with significant seniority and high knowledge and skill levels, to improve their competence in a way that best addresses their own personal practice needs

Part of the needs assessment requires a review of the previous year’s plan. Beginning in 2016, the CPD plan template with include space for this review. This is part of developing a “reflective practice”.

To ensure that the goal of enhancing lawyer competence in the delivery of legal services is met, it is necessary for a lawyer to plan their CPD activities in accordance with the Rules, implement those activities and then evaluate whether the activities undertaken in the past year were effective in improving and enhancing competence in the delivery of legal services.

In reviewing the previous year’s CPD Plan and activities, the following questions can assist the lawyer in their evaluation:

  • What activities did I undertake pursuant to last year’s CPD Plan?
  • Why did I select this activity and how will it help my practice?
  • How did each CPD activity improve my competence as a lawyer?
  • Did I meet my goals and objectives?
  • Is further learning or professional development required in any of the areas identified?
  • What will be carried forward to my future CPD Plan?

Lawyers should regularly assess the implementation of their CPD goals throughout the year. Quarterly reviews are a good start. Lawyers should ask:

  • How am I doing with implementing the activities identified in my CPD Plan?
  • Were the activities selected beneficial?
  • Did the activities selected have the intended effect, tangible or intangible?
  • Did the activities selected have unintended consequences, positive or negative?
  • Am I meeting my CPD goals as set out in my CPD Plan?
  • How are the activities I am engaged in enhancing my competence and the quality of legal services that I deliver to my clients?

Goal setting with measurable outcomes can assist in the above process. It is important, in the development of the CPD plan to plan, implement, evaluate and reflect.

For this reason, the new CPD plan template provides room for reflection. Though the plan itself locks in upon declaration, it is accessible year-round. The reflection area is not locked in and allows you to reflect on your progress, any learnings undertaken, the success of your plan and potential changes to make your plan more effective or beneficial to maintaining, developing and improving competence. Within the reflection area for each competency, you can amend your goals and objectives and identify additional activities to undertake and assess the value of those already undertaken during the year.

The self-assessment and reflection portion of the CPD program is ongoing throughout the year and over the course of your legal career.

Repercussions of Failing to Declare the Development of a CPD Plan

While Alberta lawyers have a high compliance rate with the requirement to declare the development of a CPD plan, the Law Society of Alberta takes its role to ensure the competence and professionalism of its lawyers, in their service to the public, seriously. For this reason, the Law Society felt it necessary to introduce repercussions for those few lawyers who do not develop and declare a CPD plan.

The 2012 evaluation of the CPD program indicated that there are concerns with program accountability. By addressing this issue, the evaluation suggests that confidence in the CPD program will increase. Though not all participants in the evaluation process were in favour of increased monitoring or accountability, the Law Society feels this to be an important component in its regulation of lawyers and service to the public.

While there will be no penalties for the 2016 year, the Law Society is looking at its options and will provide further information as decisions are made.

Additional Information

As in previous years, the Law Society of Alberta CPD Program does not have a mandatory minimum number of accredited hours to be counted towards CPD. The Law Society does not want to be overly prescriptive or inflexible and wants a program that takes into account the varied legal practices that exist. It is mandatory however, that lawyers in Alberta make an annual CPD Declaration that they have made a CPD Plan.

Although there is no mandatory minimum hourly requirement, all active lawyers practicing in Alberta must:

  • Prepare an annual CPD Plan in electronic form using the Member Portal;
  • Declare to the Law Society of Alberta that they have made a CPD Plan on or before March 16
  • Implement and evaluate the CPD Plan and activities from the previous year;
  • Retain the CPD Plan in written or electronic form for five years;
  • Produce the CPD Plan to the Law Society upon request.

Lawyers do not need to have their CPD activities accredited by the Law Society of Alberta. It is each lawyer’s obligation to ensure that the CPD activities incorporated into their CPD Plan meet Rule 67.1, as set out at the beginning of this document.

Compliance with an hourly requirement in another jurisdiction does not satisfy the Law Society of Alberta’s CPD requirements. The principal requirement of the Law Society of Alberta’s CPD Rule is that each lawyer makes and declares an annual CPD Plan. While some of the activities undertaken to satisfy another jurisdiction’s hourly CPD requirement may form part of the CPD Plan required by the Law Society of Alberta, some may not. It is important to reflect on your specific needs and develop a plan to address those, independent of any requirements you may be required to fulfill in other jurisdictions.