Continuing Professional Development
Mandatory Continuing Professional Development is now in effect in the Northwest Territories.
The Rules of the Law Society now state:
70.(2) A member shall, in each reporting year commencing April 1, engage in 12 hours of continuing professional development, two hours of which must be oriented towards legal ethics or law practice management.
(3) A member shall submit, at the time of his or her renewal of membership under rule 59, the following to the Executive Director:
(a) a completed continuing professional development report and plan referred to in paragraph 59(b) certifying compliance with subrule (2); and
(b) any other information that demonstrates the member complying with the requirement under subrule (2).
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is outlined as the means by which members of professional associations maintain, improve and broaden their knowledge and skills and develop the personal qualities required in their professional lives.
According to the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (2000), it is "the conscious updating of professional knowledge and the improvement of professional competence throughout a person's working life. It is a commitment to being professional, keeping up-to-date and continuously seeking to improve. It is the key to optimizing a person's career opportunities, both today and for the future."
Professional Development requirements have long-existed in most other professions, including Medical Practitioners and Chartered Accountants. In recent years, law societies have recognized that the legal profession is inclusive to such expectations, citing CPD as a means to help maintain the public's confidence. As such, Canadian law societies have begun implementing measures similar to other professions.
The Law Society of the Northwest Territories has followed suit with most other jurisdictions, including British Columbia and Ontario, in implementing Mandatory CPD. As such, the Law Society has identified and accepted 12 hours of CPD as the norm for participating jurisdictions.
At the 2008 Annual General Meeting (December 6, 2008), on the recommendation of the Continuing Professional Development Committee, the Executive of the Law Society carried forth an initiative to implement mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD). As part of this initiative, the Law Society asked all members to monitor their CPD activities and observe the suggested twelve hours of CPD, which included two hours focused on Legal Ethics & Professional Responsibility.
Renewal documents for 2009-2010 were accompanied by a new CPD Plan, in which members were asked to indicate their areas of practice, legal education interests and a plan describing their 2009-2010 continuing professional development goals and resource requirements. The plans were returned by 96% of all active members.
In 2009, members were asked to complete a CPD Report and Plan for the 2010-2011 year. Along with the unchanged Plan from the previous year, the new Report asked members to identify the courses they attended and/or materials they read to satisfy the Law Society's request for 12 hours of CPD. Again, the CPD Report and Plan was returned by 95% of the active membership.
At the 2010 Annual General Meeting (December 4, 2010), the Executive passed new rules identifying CPD as mandatory. In these new rules, members are required to have fulfilled 12 hours of CPD, including two hours focused on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, at each annual renewal time. Members are also required to complete and submit the prescribed CPD Report and Plan.
Professional Development is defined by the Law Society of the Northwest Territories as any educational activity that is:
- relevant and beneficial to a lawyer's professional needs,
- pertinent to the long-term career interests of a lawyer,
- in the interests of the lawyer's employer, and/or
- related to the professional ethics and responsibilities of lawyers.
Learning activities should also contain significant substantive, technical, practical or intellectual content.
CPD activities are further grouped into two categories: Group Study (including "accredited" programs) and Self Study.
Group Study is defined as any educational activity where interaction and discussion is available to a group of participants. This includes programs set in a classroom setting, such as seminars and webinars, as well as any arranged group study session, such as research meetings. Groups focused on the development and sharing of information on specific practice areas is also considered a group study.
Self Study is defined as any educational gain through one's independent means. Reading journals and informative publications related to the practice of law is considered a self-study activity. Likewise, listening to podcasts, participating in self-directed online programs, or reviewing recorded seminars are considered self-study activities.
The rules also require a minimum of two hours focused on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility. This can be explained in two parts:
Legal Ethics covers a vast array of subject matter, including (but not limited to) dealings with a client or witness, dealing with other lawyers or the court, conflicts of interest, professional codes of conduct (CBA and FLSC) and issues relating to access to justice.
Professional Responsibility coincides with Legal Ethics matters, but also includes other activities, such as practice and office management, finance and file management, contributions to the profession through work on committees1, understanding rules and policies of the Law Society, work/life balance and more.
It is each member's responsibility to determine whether a learning activity meets the criteria of, and therefore qualifies as, Continuing Professional Development.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Mandatory CPD and what does it mean to me?
Mandatory CPD is the requirement for all active members to participate in a set amount of educational activities as a requisite to their membership. The Rules of the Law Society state that members are required to participate in 12 hours worth of CPD (as defined by the Law Society), including 2 hours focused on legal ethics and professional responsibility.
Mandatory CPD directly affects each memberís standing with the Law Society. The failure to fulfill any requirements set by the Law Society may result in administrative and/or disciplinary action.
Where can I find the Rules about Mandatory CPD?
The Rules of the Law Society include a portion on "Continuing Professional Development", starting at Rule 70. The Rules can be found on the Law Society website, or by contacting the Law Society directly.
What is considered as professional development?
Professional development is defined as any educational activity that is relevant and beneficial to a lawyer's professional needs, pertinent to the long-term career interests of a lawyer, in the interests of the lawyer's employer, and/or related to the professional ethics and responsibilities of lawyers.
For more information, please see "Definition" on this page.
What am I reporting in each CPD Report?
The Mandatory CPD requirements follow the membership year: April 1 to March 31. Members are therefore required to report their completed CPD hours starting from April 1. Members have until March 31 to submit their report.
CPD hours include any seminars or courses attended (or presented), as well as any time spent reading or watching materials as defined by the Law Society.
What am I planning for in each CPD Plan?
The CPD Plan asks members to identify their areas of practice and to report their intentions for CPD in the upcoming year. Members are required to report their plans, intentions and goals for the new membership year, starting April 1.
The rules came into effect in December 2010. Am I still required to fulfill the 12 hours of CPD for the 2010-2011 membership year?
All members are required to fulfill the new CPD requirements as set out in the Rules.
The Rules regarding the requirements do not relate the required hours to an annual calendar. As such, the requirement is to have 12 hours of CPD fulfilled at the end of each year, starting in the current membership year (2010-2011).
I have been inactive for the last year or more, but will be returning to active status. Am I obligated to submit a report and plan?
Inactive members are not expected to fulfill the Mandatory CPD requirements for the year in which they are inactive. However, members returning to active status are required to complete the CPD Plan for the upcoming membership year.
I will be changing my membership to inactive status. How does this CPD Report & Plan apply to me?
Members are required to fulfill the Mandatory CPD requirements for the years in which they are active. Therefore, members wishing to change their status to inactive are still required to submit a CPD Report for their active year. The CPD Plan is not necessary.
Why do I have to fill out a report and a plan in the NWT?
The Northwest Territories is unique in being the only jurisdiction that requires both a plan and a report.The report is the Law Societyís direct method of tracking each memberís CPD accomplishments and monitoring his or her hours. Each member is required to report their fulfilled requirements each year.
The plan is considered equally as important as the report, for both the member and the Law Society. The plan is a self-directed guideline for each member to achieve his or her goals with regard to professional development. As well, the plan provides the Law Society with key information that may be useful when organizing relevant educational programs.
What happens if I do not complete 12 hours of CPD before the annual deadline?
The Rules of the Law Society do not identify a specific course of action against members who do not fulfill the Mandatory CPD requirements. However, failing to completed the prescribed 12 hours of CPD, including two hours focused on legal ethics and professional responsibility, may be considered an act of professional negligence and incompetence.
Members who have not fulfilled the mandatory CPD requirements may face an administrative suspension until such requirements are fulfilled. Disciplinary action may also be considered for prolonged or continued negligence.
The Executive of the Law Society reviews and responds to each case on a case-by-case basis.
I am going, or have gone, on an extended leave of absence. What is my obligation for Mandatory CPD?
Active members who have taken a leave of absence from their job, and from the practice of law, are still required to submit a CPD Plan and Report under the Rules of the Law Society. However, a member may request a variance on their requirements from the Executive.
To do so, members should provide a request in writing, stating the nature of the leave and providing any supporting documentation in defense of your leave of absence claim.