At their September meeting, the Benchers approved two changes to the Continuing Professional Development Program (CPD). The first change shifts the annual deadline for CPD declarations from March 15th to September 30th. The second change improves program accountability through the implementation of an administrative suspension for failure to declare a plan.
Declaration Period Change
In order to better support lawyers in their planning efforts, the CPD declaration period will now open on July 1st, with a deadline of September 30th. This coordinates the planning cycle with the traditional education calendar so lawyers have an opportunity to review the Legal Education Society of Alberta (LESA) course offerings for the upcoming year and the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) – Alberta Branch subsection memberships and conference offerings as they develop their CPD plan. This does not preclude lawyers from exploring other professional development opportunities outside of course offerings and subsection meetings. Lawyers are still encouraged to select professional development opportunities that best meet their needs and learning preferences.
This change in timing to the CPD program should ease the current pressure on lawyers early in the calendar year to meet their regulatory filing deadlines and their CPD plan obligations.
Beginning in 2017, lawyers who do not develop and declare a CPD plan by the September 30th deadline will be administratively suspended. This suspension can be quickly remedied by developing and declaring a CPD plan and completing the administrative suspension reinstatement process.
In 2012, the Law Society conducted a review of the CPD program and received feedback from lawyers that the program requires accountability. While the Law Society tracks lawyers who do not complete the mandatory CPD plan development and declaration process, there has been no consequence for the failure to declare.
The Law Society is accountable to the public to ensure lawyers are qualified and competent throughout their career. The lack of consequence has, therefore, been an issue for a number of years. Canada’s other law societies and many regulators of other professions have suspensions for failure to complete continuing professional development requirements. While Alberta’s CPD plan declaration rates have increased over the past three years, they are below those of other provinces where penalties exist.
The Law Society is aware of the Sidney Green v. Law Society of Manitoba hearing that is going before the Supreme Court of Canada in November. This case centers on mandatory CPD training hours and administrative suspensions for non-compliance. We are watching the development of this case and will thoroughly review the decision, when released.
The CPD plans declared by lawyers in March 2016 will be active to the end of the new planning cycle on September 30, 2017. While lawyers are not required to develop a plan for the six month gap, we encourage all lawyers to revisit their CPD plans in the Lawyer Portal and make use of the reflection boxes to address professional development over the March to September 2017 time period.
The Continuing Professional Development Program (CPD) was introduced in Alberta in 2008. Though the program has always been mandatory, it does not have an hourly requirement. The program provides flexibility for lawyers to self-assess their needs, learning preferences and goals.
Over the years, the program has undergone several changes, including the mandatory template introduced in 2016 on the Lawyer Portal. This template provides lawyers with guidance to self-assess in six competency areas to ensure the development of a well thought-out and developed plan.
We are confident that the 2017 CPD program improvements will better support lawyers in their ongoing development. Our CPD team will continue to work with lawyers, as needed, to assist them in meeting their CPD obligations and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403.229.4766.