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Mandatory CPD Scheme to start in 2004

News

Cite as: (2003) 77(10) LIJ, p.21

From next year all legal practitioners will be required to participate in the Continuing Professional Development Scheme.

Victorian legal practitioners will need to fulfil a minimum number of hours of professional development each year as part of a push to instil greater public confidence in the profession.

The first year of the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Scheme will begin on 1 April 2004, although any CPD activities undertaken after 1 January 2004 will be eligible to be claimed.

Under the Scheme, all legal practitioners will be required to complete a minimum of 10 hours of CPD each year. Practitioners will have until 31 March 2005 to complete the minimum requirement.

Practitioners who fail to meet the requirement will be given an extension of up to 90 days. However, if the practitioner then fails to meet the requirement within those 90 days the matter could ultimately be referred to Professional Standards. (For a definition of what constitutes a CPD event, see “How the CPD Scheme works” on this page.)

The Law Institute Council approved the draft rules on 28 August and then sent them to the Legal Practice Board and the Legal Ombudsman for their approval. Their decisions were expected late last month.

Institute CEO John Cain said the CPD Scheme was essential as it sent a message to the community that the legal profession was concerned about being up-to-date and could be relied on for advice and information.

He said it was also necessary that CPD became a “part of the fabric of the profession”.

Mr Cain moved to allay fears that the CPD Scheme would place an onerous burden on practitioners. He said most would easily meet the requirements in place now and would have no difficulty complying with it.

“To those that haven’t been undertaking CPD, then this Scheme will ensure that they do.”

He said practitioners in rural, regional and outer suburban areas would also have easier access to CPD events thanks to recent developments by the Institute.

“We’ve put in place travelling CPD tours of regional areas so that country practitioners can attend events conducted in their regional area.

“We are looking at extending the program of CPD events to the suburbs, certainly in the areas that are compulsory.

“I think there is ample opportunity for the lawyers of this state, wherever they are located, to meet the requirements.”

Practitioners in those areas will also be able to access Institute CPD events through videoconferencing and teleconferencing, as well as ordering tapes and videos of seminars online.

The passing of the draft rules comes after more than a decade of discussions over a mandatory CPD program.

The debate ended early this year when state Attorney-General Rob Hulls made it clear that if the legal profession did not institute its own CPD Scheme then he would do it.

Mr Hulls told the Institute Council Conference in February that a CPD Scheme would enhance the competence of the legal profession and ensure clients received “correct, considered and up-to-date advice”.

While the Institute has drafted the Scheme rules, it has taken on board a pre-requisite from Mr Hulls to include three compulsory subjects – trust accounts, ethics and equal opportunity. Practitioners will have to complete two hours of each compulsory topic over a three-year period.

Law Institute Professional Development deputy director Amanda Blesing said the rules were almost identical to the New South Wales Mandatory Continuing Legal Education scheme. She said this was done with an eye towards the formation of a national profession and practising certificate in the near future.

Ms Blesing said that while not all practitioners would be checked for their compliance each year, an audit of some practitioners would be held every year.

There will also be a permanent exemption from the Scheme for practitioners who have held a practising certificate continuously for at least 40 years and are currently practising as an employed solicitor/consultant. It is also available to those working as a notary public.

Strict criteria for annual exemptions will be available, with applications to be made in writing to Professional Standards.

A copy of the CPD Scheme rules will be available on the Law Institute’s website at http://www.liv.asn.au this month.

Jason Silverii

ABC of CPD

The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Scheme will officially begin on 1 April 2004, although any activities undertaken after 1 January 2004 can be claimed in the first year.

According to the draft rules, which were passed by the Law Institute Council on 28 August and were waiting approval from the Legal Practice Board and Legal Ombudsman at the time of writing, CPD activities accepted under the Scheme:
• may consist of a seminar, workshop, lecture, conference, discussion group, multimedia or website-based program, or the research and preparation of an article published in a legal publication or such other publication approved by the Victorian Lawyers RPA, or any combination of two or more of those activities;
• must be of significant intellectual or practical content and must deal primarily with matters directly related to the practice of law;
• must be conducted by persons who are qualified by practical or academic experience in the subject covered;
• must be relevant to a practitioner’s immediate or long-term needs in relation to the practitioner’s professional development and to the practice of law; and
• must have an aggregate value of 10 CPD Scheme units.

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