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CPD Program Requirements
All lawyers who have an active status when the CPD planning period opens on July 4 are required to submit an annual plan by Oct. 1 each year. All plans must be submitted through the Lawyer Portal using the new CPD Tool (the ‘CPD Tool’).
The only exception to this requirement is for lawyers who have the status of active – non-practicing. These lawyers are not permitted to provide legal services and are therefore not required to submit a CPD plan. There is no need for active-non-practicing lawyers to apply for an exemption.
Lawyers who are required to submit a CPD plan must do so by Oct. 1 each year.
Only lawyers who hold active status when the CPD planning period opens on July 4 are required to submit a CPD plan for that year. However, all lawyers are still encouraged to use the CPD Tool to access the benefits of self-assessment and creating personal goals. Lawyers can confirm whether this requirement applies to them by checking the Mandatory Education tab in the CPD section of the Lawyer Portal.
CPD activities are crucial for lawyers in fulfilling their Code of Conduct obligations respecting competent legal service delivery. Learning does not stop once law school ends. Like other professions, lawyers must stay up to date with technology, current issues and consumer needs. Completing professional development benefits you as a lawyer, your law firm or organization and your clients.
The requirements for CPD are largely the same from the previous program, with a requirement to submit an annual plan. The main change to the CPD program is the new CPD Tool and resources to develop a plan.
Plans can be tailored to each lawyer’s individual circumstances through the competencies and learning activities selected. Whether providing legal services on a part-time basis or getting close to the end of a career, lawyers can tailor their CPD plan to fit their circumstances.
Alberta lawyers are not required to complete a minimum number of CPD hours. The Law Society does not accredit CPD activities.
Lawyers may apply for an exemption if on parental leave, medical leave or having another circumstance that prevents them from participating in the CPD program.
Exemption requests are submitted through the CPD section of the Lawyer Portal. Lawyers are required to request an exemption through the Lawyer Portal in advance of and for each CPD year that their circumstances prevent them from participating in the CPD program.
Lawyers who require an exemption are strongly encouraged to apply well in advance of the Oct. 1 deadline, as exemptions are assessed by the Law Society and processing times can vary. Lawyers who have outstanding exemption applications on Oct. 1 will be at risk of administrative suspension.
In the past, lawyers who have been at the bar for more than 50 years have not been required to submit a CPD plan. This is no longer the case. The Profile was developed to be applicable to all practising lawyers and the CPD Tool allows lawyers to create a plan that is appropriate for any practice setting, role or year of call. The learning activity types available in the Tool are broad, and lawyers can add any other activity that meets the definition of “CPD activity” in Rule 67.1. All practising lawyers must stay up to date with technology, current issues and consumer needs.
The CPD program requirements are broad and scalable so lawyers can create a plan that takes into consideration any specific workplace professional development goals or programs.
Creating CPD plans
Lawyers are required to select at least two competencies from any of the domains contained within the Professional Development Profile (Profile). There are 29 competencies in the Profile that are broadly applicable to all lawyers. As CPD plans are personal to each lawyer, their practice and their learning goals, lawyers may tailor their chosen competencies to their practice through the learning activities they select and add other competencies that are not included in the Profile.
Lawyers are required to select at least one learning activity to help develop or enhance each competency they selected in developing their plan, using either the drop-down menu in the CPD Tool or adding another activity of their choice. Lawyers may select more than one learning activity per competency, based on their practice and what they determine to be effective for their learning goals.
Lawyers can choose up to 10 competencies for their plan. There are no consequences for failing to complete progress on any of the competencies or learning activities added to a lawyer’s CPD plan so lawyers are encouraged to add as many competencies and activities as they think are reasonable, to support their professional development goals.
Because there are so many different practice areas, the Profile does not include substantive areas of law, but broad areas of knowledge, skills and abilities that lawyers practising in all areas might look to develop or expand. As always, lawyers are encouraged to pursue CPD specific to their practice areas in addition to competencies they are required to select from the Profile.
Lawyers can do this in the CPD Tool by choosing to focus on competencies that can be tailored to their practice areas, for example, competencies from the Legal Practice, Continuous Improvement or Professional Conduct domains.
The CPD Tool also allows lawyers to add custom competencies that are specific to their practice area(s) for an even more granular focus. However, these do not count toward the two-competency minimum requirement for CPD plans.
The Law Society has always taken a broad approach regarding the types of learning activity a lawyer can engage in for continuing professional development. The definition of “Continuing Professional Development”, set out in Rule 67.1 of The Rules of the Law Society of Alberta, allows for both formal and informal learning activities to be completed provided the requirements under the Rule are met.
The CPD Tool provides a drop-down menu of popular options and our website provides suggestions for various practice types and years at the bar, however lawyers can choose other activities appropriate to their practice and circumstances.
The competencies in the CPD Tool are aspirational and are presented along with a scale that indicates increasing levels of proficiency that lawyers can use to self-assess and create personal goals. Lawyers work in many different roles and may practice in many different types of settings throughout their careers. It is not the expectation of the Law Society that all lawyers will be highly proficient in all areas included in the Profile.
The Law Society will not be able to see the proficiency self-assessments that lawyers select for themselves. The scale is a tool to provide more guidance to lawyers who want to engage in honest self-reflection about the areas they can and want to develop or enhance.
Viewing and downloading plans
The full plan covers all areas completed by the lawyer while the simplified plan only covers areas that are visible to the Law Society. If a lawyer is asked to produce a copy of their plan under Rule 67.2, they are only required to provide the simplified version of their plan.
The Education department can access a lawyer’s chosen competencies, priorities, selected learning activities (simplified plan) and any progress made in completing the learning activities through the CPD Tool to assist in the Review process. Other Law Society departments do not have access to any plan information. Other departments that want to review a lawyer’s CPD plan (such as Practice Management) will request that the lawyer produce a copy of the simplified plan.
The CPD Tool prompts lawyers to assess their own proficiency for each selected competency and record learning activity notes to help lawyers reflect on their learning needs and develop a meaningful and effective CPD plan. All lawyers are required to complete professional development activities to maintain their competence. But there are other ways that professional development can enhance a lawyer’s career and lawyers are encouraged to use all of the features of the new CPD Tool to maximize the personal and professional benefits they will receive from that engagement. This additional information that is displayed in the full plan is not accessible to the Law Society as it can be personal and sensitive in nature.
Current CPD plans can be downloaded from the CPD Tool dashboard by selecting View/Edit Plan in the Current Plan section.
Pursuant to revised Rule 67.2 of The Rules of the Law Society of Alberta, lawyers are required to maintain a record of their CPD plan for three years. Starting in 2023, the CPD Tool will retain CPD plans for three years. Lawyers can continue to access their plans for the past five years through the “Previous Plans” section of the CPD tab in the Lawyer Portal until all of those plans have expired.
Editing CPD plans
CPD plans can be changed until Sept. 30 of the year following the original submission deadline, being the end of the CPD year. Lawyers are encouraged to change and update their their plan throughout the CPD year as their learning progresses, they develop in their practice, or if their role or circumstances change.
23. How can I add, remove or edit competencies, learning activities or other information after I submit my CPD plan?
CPD plans can be edited from the CPD Tool dashboard by selecting View/Edit Plan in the Current Plan section. The CPD Tool will only save changes to a plan once the lawyer has submitted the new plan, and the new plan will replace the previous plan in the system. Lawyers who want to retain their previous plan need to save or print a copy before the new plan is submitted. The Tool will still recognize that the original plan was submitted before the deadline.
Tracking progress on your CPD plan
The track progress section of the CPD Tool is an optional but recommended feature to help track completion of learning activities and record notes about each activity. Marking learning activities as complete helps lawyers track the progression of their CPD plan throughout the year, including whether they believe their proficiency level has increased as a result of the activities completed, and whether their learning activities were effective. This can also help lawyers determine the learning styles that work best for them.
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