Law Society to consult lawyers on Continuing Professional Development

The New Zealand Law Society says details of a proposed mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme will be published early next year and lawyers will be given the opportunity to comment on the proposals.

This follows approval by the Law Society’s Board and Council on 17 and 18 November of the CPD proposal that will be released for consultation.

Under the proposed scheme, all New Zealand lawyers in active practice, both part-time and full-time would be required to:

  • produce or update a CPD plan annually; and
  • complete and document a minimum of 10 hours of eligible CPD activities each year.

In addition to the 10 hours of eligible CPD activities, all lawyers would be encouraged to complete a minimum of 50 hours of self-study activities each year.

Eligible CPD activities must be verifiable and justifiable. A wide range of possible activities will be permitted, with a list of suggested verification methods. CPD activities could be provided by Law Society branches or sections, firms, groups of lawyers, NZLS CLE Ltd or other commercial providers.

A broad range of assistance and “accessories”, designed to facilitate easy compliance, is also proposed.

Under the proposed scheme, all lawyers would need to make a declaration stating that they had met all the requirements relating to ongoing legal education, including both the planning and hourly components, and submit the declaration with their annual practising certificate renewal application.

There would be no exemptions. In the most exceptional circumstances, lawyers could apply to the NZLS Board for an extension of time to complete their CPD requirements.

The lawyer would need to submit a revised CPD plan with their application for a time extension. The requirements would need to be fulfilled in the following year, together with the CPD requirements for that year and any other requirements the Board might impose.

Law Society President Jonathan Temm said at the 18 November Council meeting that the proposed CPD plan was a “superb piece of work”.

He said the requirement for lawyers to plan their CPD puts the Law Society at the forefront of compulsory professional development thinking internationally.

In considering the proposals, both the Board and Council noted that they anticipated that the flexible nature of the requirements meant that all lawyers - regardless of their level of experience, practice area, type of practice and where they live - should be able to meet the requirements in a practical and cost-effective manner.

Recent surveys have showed that more than 50% of lawyers complete at least 11 hours of formal continuing legal education a year and most have some sort of CPD plan.

The majority of lawyers are, therefore, already undertaking the proposed minimum CPD requirements considered by the Law Society Board and Council at their November meetings.

The proposed CPD scheme was developed in response to a report to the Board in September 2009. At that meeting the Board agreed in principle to the introduction of a form of mandatory continuing legal education and asked the Law Society’s Executive Director to arrange for a detailed paper addressing the possible requirements by December 2011.

A consultation paper on the proposed CPD scheme will be now developed. This will be placed on the Law Society’s my.lawsociety website and items relating to it will be published in LawTalk and LawPoints and on the NZLS website in January 2012.