CPD Frequently Asked Questions
This page is under revision to reflect the program changes approved at the September 2016 Bencher meeting.
1. How do I log into the lawyer portal?
Find out here.
2. How do I create and declare my CPD Plan?
Find out here.
3. When is the deadline?
The declaration deadline is September 30 of each year.
4. Is the Continuing Professional Development Program mandatory?
Yes. The Law Society’s CPD Program is a regulatory program of the Law Society and a mandatory requirement for all active lawyers.
5. What are the goals and objectives of the Law Society’s CPD Program?
The goal of the CPD Program 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. The Law Society of Alberta CPD Program is a flexible and convenient method to ensure lawyers meet their professional duty of competence in the delivery of legal services 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.
6. What are the key requirements of the CPD Program?
All active Alberta lawyers must:
- Prepare an annual CPD Plan in electronic form;
- Declare to the Law Society of Alberta that they have made a CPD Plan on or before September 30;
- Implement and evaluate the CPD Plan and activities from the previous year;
- Retain the CPD Plan for five years;
- Produce the CPD Plan to the Law Society upon request.
7. Why does the CPD Program require that lawyers evaluate their CPD activities from the previous year?
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?
- How did this CPD activity improve my competence as a lawyer?
- How much time did I spend on these CPD activities last year?
- What will be carried forward to my 2015 CPD Plan?
As well, lawyers should reflect upon 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? 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? There is now room in your plan to add reflections throughout the year to assist you with this ongoing assessment.
8. What qualifies as a continuing professional development activity for the purposes of this program?
A continuing professional development activity is broadly defined in Rule 67.1 (1) as follows:
67.1 (1 ) “Continuing professional development” is any learning activity that is:
a) relevant to a lawyer’s professional needs; or
b) pertinent to long-term career interests as a lawyer; or
c) in the interests of the lawyer’s employer; or
d) related to the professional ethics and responsibilities of lawyers.
(2) The learning activity 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.
For ideas and examples of CPD activities, click here
9. Do lawyers have to report their CPD hours?
Unlike other jurisdictions, the Law Society of Alberta CPD Program does not have a mandatory minimum number of accredited hours to be counted towards CPD. It is mandatory however, that lawyers in Alberta create and declare a CPD Plan.
10. Do lawyers have to get their CPD activities accredited by the Law Society?
No, 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 (above). (Read more)
11. Do CLE providers have to get their programs accredited by the Law Society of Alberta?
No. Unlike other jurisdictions, the Law Society of Alberta CPD Program does not have a mandatory minimum number of accredited hours to be counted towards CPD. It is mandatory however, that lawyers in Alberta make an annual CPD Declaration that they have created a CPD Plan including a range of learning activities relevant to their professional development. The CPD Plan must also evaluate their previous year’s plan including those CPD activities that have been implemented.
The Law Society of Alberta does not accredit courses offered by CLE providers nor assign hours to a course. It is the decision of each lawyer whether a CPD course or activity meets the requirements of Rule 67.1 and whether to include it in their CPD Plan.
It is important for CLE providers to develop and market the courses they offer to Alberta lawyers as being activities that may be included in an Alberta lawyer’s annual mandatory CPD Plan. Below is the suggested wording for CLE providers to place in their CLE brochure:
For Alberta lawyers, consider including this course as a CPD learning activity in your mandatory annual Continuing Professional Development Plan as required by the Law Society of Alberta.
Rule 67.1(1) defines continuing professional development as 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.
Continuing professional development must contain significant substantive, technical, practical or intellectual content. It is each lawyer’s responsibility to determine whether a learning activity offered by a CLE provider meets these criteria and therefore qualifies as continuing professional development.
12. Does compliance with a CPD Program in another jurisdiction satisfy the Law Society of Alberta’s CPD requirements?
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. 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.
13. Does the CPD Program apply to in-house lawyers too? Part-time lawyers? Lawyers engaged in non-traditional practice?
The requirement of the CPD Program applies to all active members of the Law Society of Alberta.
14. What about students-at-law? Are they required to comply with the CPD rules?
Striving to continually enhance competence in the practice of law by planning to excel is one of the keys to a satisfying legal career. All newly admitted students are therefore encouraged to create a CPD Plan early after their admission as a member of the Law Society.
The development of a CPD Plan and CPD Plan Declaration is required for lawyers who are called to the Bar on or before March 16 of each year. Therefore, if an articling student is called:
- before March 15, the newly admitted lawyer will be required to develop and declare a CPD Plan by the March 15 deadline in accordance with the Rules;
- after March 15, will be required to create and declare a CPD Plan between January 1 and March 15 of the following year.
15. Do lawyers file their CPD Plan with the Law Society?
No, currently lawyers do not file their CPD Plan with the Law Society. A lawyer must keep a copy of their CPD Plan on file for five years and produce to the Law Society upon request. Please note: the lawyer portal is not an archive of CPD Plans.
16. Rule 67.2 indicates that lawyers must produce their CPD Plan to the Law Society of Alberta upon request. When would a lawyer be asked to produce their CPD Plan to the Law Society of Alberta?
A lawyer’s CPD Plan may be requested in the event of proceedings under Legal Profession Act (Conduct, Practice Review or other regulatory processes of the Law Society of Alberta). In the event a lawyer fails to produce, declare, prepare, implement or retain their CPD Plan, these may be factors that will be taken into account during such proceedings.
17. Will anybody ever look at a lawyer’s CPD Plan to ensure they have implemented their CPD Plan activities?
Yes. Lawyers are required to retain their CPD Plan for five years. In circumstances when conduct comes to the attention of the Law Society of Alberta, a lawyer may be asked to produce their CPD Plan and advise of the steps taken to implement and evaluate their CPD activities and CPD goals.
18. How will success of this program be evaluated?
Since the inception of the CPD Program in 2009, there has been outstanding compliance with the CPD Program. Additionally, the Law Society of Alberta has undertaken an evaluation of the CPD Program (see Charis Report). Many lawyers have expressed their appreciation for the forward thinking of the CPD Program that is not focused on hours, rather leverages the professionalism of lawyers to encourage life-long learning through Continuing Professional Development Plans to enhance the competent delivery of legal services.
19. Is there enough rigour and accountability under this CPD Program?
Although there is no mandatory minimum hourly requirement in the Law Society of Alberta CPD Program, the annual planning, declaration and implementation of a CPD Plan is mandatory for all active lawyers practicing in Alberta. There has already been one discipline decision of the Benchers dealing with a member’s failure to have an adequate CPD Plan and conditions on practice included the preparation, implementation of a CPD Plan to ensure the member’s competence in certain areas of law. The Law Society is focusing on developing a more robust regulatory framework to ensure that lawyers are held accountable for developing and implementing high quality CPD Plans.
20. Why does the Law Society of Alberta have a CPD Program?
The Law Society of Alberta regulates lawyers in the public interest. It is important to be accountable and demonstrate to the public that lawyers maintain and strive for high levels of professionalism and competence in the practice of law. The Law Society of Alberta is committed to the independent regulation of the legal profession, and to establishing the highest standards of governance and protection of the public.
21. Why CPD Plans? Why not mandatory minimum hour requirement for CLE attendance like other law societies and professions?
Mandatory minimum hour CPD Programs for the legal profession are found in most of the United States and throughout Australia. This trend has spread to the legal profession in Canada.
Fundamentally, the focus in mandatory minimum hour Continuing Legal Education (CLE) jurisdictions is on a culture of compliance with getting hours. Compliance with the hourly minimum becomes the motivation for CPD programming and not necessarily improving lawyer competence or professionalism. Most discussion papers on the issue of mandatory minimum hours CLE consistently make the point that there is no empirical evidence to support a link between attending CLE programming and enhancing the competent delivery of legal services in the practice of law.
The Law Society of Alberta CPD Program is intended to foster a self-directed and life-long learning approach to continuing professional development that enhances and ensures lawyer competence. The Law Society of Alberta CPD Program is 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.
22. Is this a program of the Law Society of Alberta or the Legal Education Society of Alberta?
Both, as the two organizations have worked together on the CPD Program: the Law Society as regulator, and LESA as educator. The CPD Program is a regulatory program of the Law Society and is a mandatory requirement for all active lawyers in Alberta. LESA provides educational programming and develops educational resources for Alberta lawyers to ensure high quality of CPD resources are available to Alberta lawyers
23. Need more information?
Contact the Continuing Professional Development team by phone at 403-229-4766 or via email.