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From the Law Society

22 November 2013

Many years work went into developing the continuing professional development (CPD) scheme that came into effect on 1 October.

The aim of all the years of work was to develop a scheme that was internationally cutting edge in its focus on lawyer-centred learning.

Annette Black, a former director of the Law Society who established the NZLS continuing legal education department (now NZLS CLE Ltd) 30 years ago, has spearheaded the design and implementation of the CPD scheme.

CPD in various forms has been around for about 25 years. Other legal jurisdictions, notably Australia and Canada, as well as other professions introduced hours or points based systems many years ago.

Studies and research now indicate that a requirement based purely on points or hours is a blunt instrument and is not effective for supporting lawyers to maintain competence in their areas of expertise or areas they wish to develop

In such schemes, the focus was on ensuring that lawyers complied with the letter of the law by completing a required number of hours, regardless of whether they actually participated in the learning process, whether or not the courses they attended were relevant to them or whether they learned anything.

Because of this, the Law Society undertook research and consultation as well as a review of other jurisdictions’ experience with CPD.

Based on that work, the Law Society has developed a scheme which recognises that everybody’s learning needs are different. It accommodates the fact that we all have different careers and ways of learning.

The requirements as set out in the new rules do not centre on inputs but are outcomes focused. The emphasis is on requiring each individual lawyer to take responsibility for ensuring their own competency by maintaining and actioning a written CPD plan.

Each lawyer is required to identify and prioritise their learning requirements, outline an action plan for addressing those requirements and then execute it.

As each lawyer carries out their action plan they are asked to reflect on what they would do differently as a result of each activity and what else they need to learn.

This information is then fed into their ongoing CPD plan. This is flexible and will change with time and availability of the required professional development. The requirement to complete a certain number of CPD hours should be seen in this context. It is an indication of the minimum learning activities a lawyer should be expected to undertake in order to carry out their plan, enough to maintain or enhance their competency.

Moreover the range of activities, as can be seen from the guidelines (see www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-lawyers/regulatory-requirements/continuing-professional-development) is broad and specifically includes skills, related knowledge, business and personal management, ethics and client care.

Rather than being confined to traditional courses, lawyers may choose from a variety of learning formats to suit their individual learning styles and opportunities.

The seminar The NZLS CPD Rules – a practical guide which has recently travelled New Zealand provided an overview and assistance to start your learning plan and identify your learning needs.

Neil Gold, an Emeritus Professor of law at the University of Windsor in Canada who is an internationally recognised expert in legal education, particularly skills-based legal training, led the seminar. Over 2,500 lawyers throughout New Zealand attended.

The feedback has been refreshing. Most lawyers, as we know from earlier surveys, take their competency and their lifelong learning seriously.

In the law schools today there is a strong focus on effective and learner-centred learning (see the feature starting on page 4). We are building on this for the new generation.

Lawyers can produce their plan and meet their learning needs without spending any money. However plenty of thought, time and energy is needed to ensure you make the most of CPD and maintain career-long effective professional development.

The CPD scheme will be reviewed in two years’ time to see if it can be improved and whether any changes are required.

In the meantime I hope you embrace the CPD scheme and make the most of it for your own benefit.


Last updated on the 17th March 2016