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The Professional Development Profile (Profile) is currently being developed along with a new continuing professional development (CPD) planning tool that will be rolled out to Alberta lawyers in 2023. Feedback is being sought from the profession on the current draft Profile. The Profile will outline professional competencies that Alberta lawyers can decide to develop or refine as part of their CPD plan.
The Benchers approved an extension to suspend the CPD filing requirement for an additional year to May 2023 to give the Law Society sufficient time to develop the new CPD planning tool.
However, lawyers can use the Profile, once it is rolled out, to guide their professional development activities for 2022-2023 until the new planning tool is available in 2023.
The filing requirement for CPD was suspended until May 2023. The next CPD plan will be filed in September 2023.
The Profile outlines professional competencies that Alberta lawyers can decide to develop or refine as part of their professional development. By “professional development,” we mean any formal or informal activities lawyers might undertake to improve their knowledge, skills and abilities in a given area. This includes anything from reading an article to taking a seminar, attending a conference, or teaching a course.
Competencies are broad areas that lawyers can select to develop such as practice management or lawyer-client relationships. The competencies include examples of performance indicators that highlight observable behaviors to demonstrate the selected competency.
As much of the proposed work in lawyer competence must be grounded in a common understanding of core lawyer competencies, a Task Force comprised of 11 lawyers was established in August 2021 to help draft the Profile.
Over the past six months, the Law Society engaged with the Task Force, its various advisory committees (Lawyer Competence, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Indigenous) as well as an external focus group comprised of stakeholders in the legal community to develop the current draft. The Benchers, through their Lawyer Competence Committee, had oversight of the development process.
The following were the guiding principles in determining the contents of the Profile:
- serves the public interest;
- embraces a broad concept of competence and fosters high standards in the profession;
- strives to be innovative and proactive in matters relevant for legal practice in Alberta today;
- endeavours to be equitable, representative and inclusive; and
- seeks to be responsive to the professional development needs of lawyers.
The competence of Alberta lawyers is at the forefront of everything we do in both our proactive and regulatory work. Alberta has always taken a different approach to CPD than other Canadian law societies; rather than having a minimum hours requirement, the Law Society allows lawyers to make a CPD plan that makes sense for them. We saw room for improvement in the way this approach is delivered, so we are making some enhancements to the process.
We want lawyers to engage in self-reflection and self-assessment to determine their own professional development needs/goals while providing guidance in how they can improve in their chosen areas.
It is important to gather feedback from Alberta lawyers to understand if the draft Profile will meet the needs of lawyers for professional development. We want to understand if the Profile is clear or if there are any gaps or areas for improvement. We want to ensure we have developed a Profile that will assist lawyers with their ongoing professional development.
The new approach to CPD for lawyers is to be more self-directed, while providing guidance about competencies the Law Society believes are relevant for legal practice in Alberta today.
All active lawyers can complete the survey and inactive lawyers who have been in practice within the last five years.
The Law Society and a third-party consultant will use the feedback from the survey to identify any gaps or areas for improvement in the Profile. We want to verify that lawyers can use the Profile to engage in self-reflection and self-assessment to determine their own professional development needs/goals.
The requirements for CPD will remain largely the same with a requirement to file an annual plan resuming in 2023. The main change to CPD is the process and supports used to develop a CPD plan. A minimum hours requirement will not be added.
The Profile is meant to provide guidance when lawyers are selecting areas for professional development that are meaningful to them and their practice at different stages of their career. The Profile was drafted to have broad applications to various practice settings. Some content will not be applicable to all lawyers depending on their career stage or practice setting.
The Profile is not intended to be used as a checklist and lawyers will not be required to demonstrate competency in every area in the Profile each year. The planning tool will help lawyers focus on areas for development.
The survey will close on Feb. 13 and the results will be analyzed to shape the Profile that will go to the Board for approval in April. The final rollout plan will go to the Board for approval in June. A roll out date to the profession will be determined upon final approval.