For the majority of lawyers in Australia, the requirement to complete mandatory education seems more of a tick-the-box exercise than a chance to truly raise the standard of the profession, writes Jonathan Seifman.
As some readers may be aware, the Solicitors Regulation Authority in the UK came to the same conclusion and recently approved plans to remove the CPD requirement for UK solicitors from November 2016.
So, what’s likely to happen in Australia? In the short term, there will be tweaks to how the system works in Australia but no major overhaul. Some of the tweaks include an attempt to harmonise the rules across Australia (the current system means that each State or Territory has a slightly different set of rules), as well as abolishing the 10-points-in-one-day events in some jurisdictions.
The longer-term view is far less clear.
In the meantime, there are some clear trends we see in the mandatory education space, as well as some emerging directions this space is heading.
- The vast majority of lawyers are still leaving the bulk of their legal education to the last minute. In our 2013 research, which involved interviewing over 100 lawyers across Australia about how they do their mandatory education, we found that over 70 per cent of respondents fulfil their requirements in February and March.
- There are an increasing number of providers of education who are online only, providing a range of online courses, videos or live webinars. Some of the traditional providers of face-to-face seminars and conferences are also providing live online streaming of their events. The future of this space is increasingly digital.
- In the aforementioned survey, the two most important factors lawyers consider when purchasing a course are the topic and the speaker. The price of the course came third in our rankings, and the provider of the course was hardly a factor.
- Small firms are going digital faster than the mid-sized or large firms. This is not a surprise when you consider that it’s often difficult for suburban or country lawyers to get into the city to attend a live event.
- More and more lawyers are doing the mandatory topics of ethics, professional skills and practice management through online means. They still prefer live seminars or conferences to learn about areas of substantive law, but are happy to do the mandatory topics through a digital offering.
- It has become a lot easier for lawyers to become speakers and providers of content. There are more and more outlets to produce and distribute content, and there are plenty of avenues to bypass the traditional seminar and conference providers. Watch this space moving forward.
Please note: Mandatory education referred to as MCLE in New South Wales and CPD everywhere else.
Jonathan Seifman is the CEO of Bulletpoints.com.au, a free online service that pulls together MCLE/CPD courses from a huge selection of course providers.
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