New Zealand Law Society - Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

Commonly asked questions about Continuing Professional Development.


Will the Law Society recommend seminars by specific organisations?

No. The Law Society will not accredit any course providers. You will need to use your professional judgement as to whether a course or seminar is likely to fall within the definition of a CPD activity as set out in Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD Rules and is relevant to your development needs.

How many hours should I claim?

This is a decision for each lawyer’s professional judgement. The CPD Guidelines provide some commentary on how to assess your hours and what may be counted.

CPD providers may provide an indication of the number of CPD hours potentially available from a particular CPD activity, but in the end you must make your own assessment. Remember, you may not include non-learning time such as tea or lunch breaks.

Can participants claim preparation time?

While preparation is always worthwhile and helps to ensure you get the most out of a CPD activity in most cases preparation would not comply with the definition of a CPD activity as set out in Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD Rules. In rare cases it might be that preparation is structured as a distance learning programme. In these circumstances it might include exercises requiring interaction and feedback, and there would be a certificate of completion or similar for verification purposes.

Can I carry back/carry forward hours of activities from one year to the next?

Yes. The CPD Rules enable you to carry forward up to five hours each period. You can count the hours of CPD activities only once.

If you do not complete your required CPD activities in one year you will need to complete them in the next year so that you can file your declaration of compliance. In these circumstances you will be filing a late declaration of compliance.

What activities can I count towards my CPD requirements?

CPD activities are defined in Rules 3.1(b) of the CPD Rules. Any activity you wish to account must comply with this definition.

CPD activities may include courses, programmes, training programmes, one to one learning activities, distance learning courses, teaching and related activities, writing, and certain law reform activities. The CPD Guidelines contain a lot of material about identifying activities, topics and arranging/delivering CPD activities.

I am planning to attend an overseas conference. Can I count this towards my CPD requirements?

Yes, providing the conference falls within the definition of Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD Rules and is related to your identified learning needs as set out in your CPDPR.

Can I still claim a CPD activity if the provider does not set out anticipated learning outcomes?

As long as the session is structured in a way that enables you to learn and work towards your CPD goals the time spent on the activity can be counted.

How do I prove that I completed my CPD activities?

There are many ways to verify you have completed a CPD activity depending on the type of activity and how it is organised. The CPD Guidelines contain a lot of information about, and examples of, the various alternatives.

Your CPDPR should also record your attendance and your reflections on how the activities met your CPD goals and what you will do differently as a result of what you learned.

Can I count group attendance at a webinar?

Yes, provided you can ask questions and obtain feedback through the lawyer who is logged on to the webinar. You must also verify your attendance eg, through a signed list of attendees. There is also the separate issue of the commercial arrangement you make with the webinar provider, most of which now offer pricing for group webinar registrations.

Can I count attending a fixture as an observer or as a junior?

No. While this may be a worthwhile learning experience it does not meet the requirements for CPD activities. You might, however, arrange one to one coaching on, for instance, cross examination. As part of the coaching programme you might be required to attend a civil case for a specific and reasonable period of time to observe and critique certain aspects of a cross examination in order to discuss these with your tutor. This might count as a CPD activity. Your attendance at Court would have to meet the requirements set out in Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD Rules and would have to be for training purposes only, not to assist with a case.

I am an academic but also hold a current practising certificate.  Can I count my teaching activities towards my CPD?

Academics who are not required to hold a practising certificate in relation to their employment as an academic but who choose to hold a practising certificate, possibly to enable them to practise as a barrister, may count the teaching, research etc. they undertake as academics towards their CPD requirements, providing, of course, that it meets the requirements set out in Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD rules. Their teaching is not part of their day to day work as a lawyer.

If an academic, who also practises as a barrister, receives instructions on a particular matter and who then undertakes research for the specific purpose of fulfilling those instructions, could not count that research as it would be related to their day to day work as a lawyer.

If a person was employed as a teacher, but was specifically required to be a lawyer and to hold a current practising certificate in relation to their teaching activities, they would not be able to count those activities towards their CPD requirements as it would be part of their day to day work as a lawyer.

I am a lawyer but I also do some teaching.  Can I count my teaching and related research activities towards my CPD requirements?

If you are not required to hold a practising certificate in relation to your teaching and related activities you can count those activities towards your CPD requirements, as they are not part of your day to day activities as a lawyer. They meet the other requirements of Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD rules. 

I practise in a variety of areas of the law, e.g., criminal, family, employment etc. Can I devote all of my hours to one specific area?

Yes, if you have identified the activities you carry out as your priority for that year. There is no limit to the number of hours you may count from one completed CPD activity.

Can I count one to one training with a non-lawyer, e.g., an accountant?

Yes, if the training meets the requirements for a CPD activity as set out in Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD Rules.

Can I count giving a talk to a community group on, say, wills or elder law?

Probably not. In order to lead to relevant outcomes for you, teaching related activities need to be at the tertiary level. See the CPD Guidelines elsewhere on the website.

Can I count volunteering at a community law centre towards my CPD hours?

Probably not. It does not matter if an activity is paid or voluntary. The question is whether the activity meets the requirements set out in Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD Rules. If you were to present a seminar for other volunteers, or took part in one to one coaching, for instance, then these activities might count.

My firm or employer will not pay for my CPD activities. What do I do?

It is your responsibility to comply with the CPD requirements. Your firm is not obliged to pay for your CPD courses. Courses at reasonable costs should be available in your area. It is also possible to arrange study groups or other learning opportunities with your colleagues so that hours of activities are completed with no actual cost. If you are having difficulties organising your activities please contact the Law Society.

Applying the Rules

Do the CPD rules apply to me?

The CPD Rules apply to all lawyers both part-time and full-time. If you hold a practising certificate the Rules apply.

Annually, all lawyers must file with the Law Society a declaration of compliance with the CPD requirements as set out in the Rules.

Lawyers providing regulated services as defined in the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 must have a CPDPR and must complete 10 hours of CPD activities annually. The CPD Rules define “providing legal services” as including “holding yourself out as being willing or available to provide regulated services.”

A lawyer not providing regulated services for a whole yearly period may have reduced requirements.

I will be on maternity leave / parental leave / sick leave / sabbatical leave for more than three months. Do the CPD Rules still apply to me?

Yes, but the application of the Rules will vary depending on your circumstance.

If you continue to hold a practising certificate – i.e. are a lawyer under the Act – you will need to file a declaration of compliance with the Law Society at the end of each CPD year.

If you have been providing regulated services for part of a CPD year you will need to have a CPDPR that complies with Rule 5 and complete the required hours of activities as per Schedule 1.

A CPD reporting period runs from 1 April to 31 March. You will also need to make sure that you comply with the requirements for each reporting period.

I am practising overseas. How do the Rules apply to me?

If you hold a New Zealand practising certificate the Rules apply. You will need to have a CPDPR, meet the activities requirements and file a declaration of compliance. In most cases the CPD you are required to do in the jurisdiction that you are practising in will be able to be counted towards your New Zealand requirements. Check they meet the requirements set out in Rule 3.1(b) of the CPD Rules.

What if I don’t practise for a period, then return to practice?

You will need to complete any outstanding CPD requirements you might have from when you were last in practice. This may mean you might have to file a late declaration, depending on the time period. There will be no CPD requirements relating to the time you did not hold a practising certificate. The requirements relate only to lawyers.


What happens if I’m audited and my CPDPR doesn’t meet the Law Society’s expectation? 

The overall aim of CPD is to build on the culture of life-long learning in the legal profession and the Law Society takes an educative and supportive approach to auditing. If your CPDPRs don’t meet expectation, in the first instance, we’ll ask you to rectify any deficiencies and to resubmit. However, if there are indications that you have knowingly made a false declaration of compliance then the Law Society may refer you to a Standards Committee for inquiry under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. 

What happens if I’m audited and I don’t submit my CPDPRs by the due date? 

We believe that we’re providing ample time (21 working days) for you to submit your CPDPR. Your CPDPR should be readily available given that it must be complete to make your CPD declaration each year and rule 5.3 requires that you retain your CPDPR for 3 years. 

We’ll send you a reminder seven working days before your CPDPR is due. 

If you choose not to submit your CPDPRs for audit, we will assume that you are indicating to us that you have not met your professional obligations under the CPD Rules. If we do not hear from you, our next step may be to refer you to a Standards Committee for inquiry under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006. 

Will I be audited if I am an employee of a self-auditing organisation? 

If you are an employee of a self-auditing organisation, while you remain personally responsible for making your CPD declaration each year, you will not be selected for a random audit by the Law Society. The Law Society has assessed your organisation as having suitable processes and systems in place to ensure the appropriate review of employees CPDPRs. However, if you have an outstanding CPD declaration, the Law Society may request your plan and record to verify that you are meeting your requirements. 

More information about self-auditing status

Declarations of Compliance

How do I file a declaration of compliance?

You will file your declaration that you have complied with the CPD requirements (that is, that you have developed and maintained a written CPDPR and have undertaken the required number of hours of CPDF activities) electronically. The declaration will be made in Registry, using your existing Lawyer login and password.

You will be sent an e-mail in advance explaining the process.

What is a late declaration of compliance?

Essentially a late declaration of compliance is a flag to the Law Society that you have not managed to comply with Rules in a timely way. In some cases the reason for a late declaration of compliance will be due to unforeseen circumstances. Where there is a pattern of filing late declarations the Law Society will want to understand why and to assist you to comply in a more timely way.

How will the Law Society monitor my compliance with the Rules?

Through reviewing the declarations of compliance and conducting audits of individual lawyers or of self-auditing organisations. A pattern of non-compliance may mean that you are referred to a Standards Committee.

Can I file a declaration of compliance before the end of a CPD year?

Yes. If your CPDPR is completed for the entire CPD year and you have completed the requisite hours of CPD activities you may file your declaration at any time. If you are ceasing practice temporarily you are encouraged to complete your required CPD and to make a declaration of compliance at the time. Otherwise, if/when you return to practice you will then have to meet your requirements and probably file a late declaration.

I am a suspended lawyer; do I still have to meet the CPD requirements?

You will need to make sure that you have met the CPD requirements as at the date of suspension. You will also need to file a declaration of compliance with the CPD requirements for any part-year that you held a practising certificate.

If you have outstanding CPD requirements at the time you are suspended you are encouraged to complete them during your suspension. If you have not completed any outstanding requirements you will need to complete them when you return to practice. Depending on the timing, you may then need to file a late declaration.


Are there exemptions?

No. If you hold a practising certificate you have to comply with the CPD Rules. There are no exemptions.

In exceptional circumstances the Law Society may give you a deferment. You will then be able to make your declaration for the CPD period in question. You will need to complete the requirements in a later CPD period.

Key time periods

When does a CPD period start and end?

The CPD year runs from 1 April to 31 March. A lawyer's CPD and CPDPR (CPD Plan and Record) are a continuous running record of learning and do not have an end date.

When do I need to have a CPDPR (CPD Plan and Record)?

Your CPDPR needs to be maintained throughout any CPD period. 

When do I make my CPD declaration?

Declarations of compliance with the CPD requirements must be lodged with the Law Society within five working days of the end of the CPD year. Declarations are made online.  

Self-auditing organisations

I am a lawyer in a self-auditing organisation – what does this mean for me?

A self-auditing organisation assumes responsibility for ensuring that lawyer members complete their CPD requirements. They will have a CPD Officer who is responsible for the CPD policies and procedures in the organisation.

Individual lawyers must still file their own declarations of compliance and are still able to apply for deferments.

The CPD Plan and Record (CPDPR)

How do I develop a CPDPR?

The Guidelines contain helpful information. You could also talk to your employer, a mentor or other colleagues about your professional development needs.

Is there a specific date that I need to plan by?

A CPDPR is an on-going requirement. You will need to maintain your CPDPR throughout the reporting year beginning 1 April.

How long do I have to have a CPDPR?

A CPDPR is an on-going requirement. The Rules require you to keep it for three years. You may keep it for longer.

Can I use the data from my provider template?

There are templates available to assist you complete your CPDPR from various education providers. Only some of the pre-populated data found on these can be used without modification. The CPD activity name, learning objectives and hours, for example, are fine – they do not change. However, the reflective statements for each learning activity and identified learning needs will be unique to you. Your CPDPR should reflective this.

Is there a set form for the CPDPR?

No, you can keep your plan and record in whatever form best suits you. Downloadable spread sheet and word templates are available on the website if you wish to use them.

How detailed does my CPDPR need to be?

While your CPDPR will often be a summary of your more detailed plans (and can be quite general), it is important to spend time personally reflecting on the value of your learning. You can see an example of a CPDPR for a lawyer in general practice on the website.

Can we develop our CPDPR in 3 to 6 month stages? We do not necessarily know what areas we need to improve on at one time in each year.

You should develop your CPDPR plan for a year, at least in general terms, but you should review at regular intervals amending your learning priorities, and/or making them more specific if necessary.

Given I have to keep my CPDPR for three years can I plan for several years ahead?

Long term plans are always a good idea, but you will need to revise and review your plan from time to time. Your learning needs and priorities will most likely change over time.

What happens if I plan to do something and then I don’t do it?

The CPDPR should be treated as a living document – the requirement is to develop and maintain. Your CPDPR is not set in concrete. You will need to alter your plan from time to time.

Nor are you expected to plan and identify every hour of CPD activities you expect to carry out at the beginning of a CPD year. Once you have identified a learning need you should identify the general means of fulfilling it you would like to use, for instance, attending a seminar, organising or participating in a study group, or completing a distance learning programme. You cannot know every potential course that may be available over the year, and, nor can you predict all the changes to legislation or the outcome of leading cases.

Does my CPD Plan have to be different every year? I think my areas of interest and what I practise are likely to be very similar every year.

This is likely to be the case for most lawyers. While your subject area(s) may remain broadly similar, there are always changes to the law and practice so that your specific learning needs and priorities will change. Other things affecting the way you carry on your practice such as technology and practice management related requirements also change.

Will anyone see my CPDPR?

Your employer/organisation may assist you to develop your CPDPR. The Law Society will not want to see your CPDPR as a matter of course. However, if you are audited or you have a pattern of non-compliance the Law Society may wish to see your CPDPR.