PRACTITIONERS IN Victoria will be required to complete a minimum of 10 hours a year of continuing professional development if they want to maintain their practising certificate, under a new scheme put forward by the Law Institute of Victoria.
The Council of the LIV has resolved to implement rules governing continuing professional development (CPD), following a request from the Attorney General of that state. The CPD Scheme Rules 2004 require practitioners complete 10 CPD Scheme units each year, which equates to about 10 hours.
The scheme has been introduced in response to changes in the law and the environment in which practitioners work. In an interview with Lawyers Weekly, LIV president Chris Dale said the Institute had observed a mandatory legal education scheme in NSW.
Also, “[the LIV] had knowledge that within law firms people may hold practising certificates in both jurisdictions and it seemed an anomaly in the modern practice to not have a similar scheme in Victoria”, he said.
“We have been anxious for some time to ensure that lawyers in Victoria continue to upgrade their skills, and the scheme will ensure that occurs,” Dale said. “In this day and age it is inconceivable that across a working life of 40 years, continuing legal education is not absolutely necessary.”
Arguing the CPD Scheme was an opportunity for practitioners to develop their abilities as solicitors and provide a higher standard of legal counsel to their clients, the LIV claimed the scheme could help practitioners maintain a competitive advantage in their particular areas of law, legal practice or business.
It could also help solicitors in a quest for a promotion, a shift to a different area of practice or a career change. “A professional development program will ensure the roll-out of many different lectures on different topics, so there will be a surplus of courses available which can assist practitioners,” Dale said
The new rules would formalise a process that practitioners already undertake in their professional lives, Dale said, and practitioners would be “keeping up with new legislation and technology, improving their personal skills and understanding changing market environments”.
“Originally there was some discussion about it being time consuming, but this seems to have waned. Practitioners accept that a commitment to that amount of professional development was not onerous and it’s a minium requirement,” Dale said.
A broad range of activities qualified as CPD, the LIV stated. Professional organisations, educational institutions and in-house trainers can run CPD activities. Also, practitioners can do home-study courses or develop their own study programs.
There are some restrictions, however. In each year, solicitors must complete the 10 units or they will be brought before the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal for misconduct or unsatisfactory conduct.
The LIV will conduct a random audit each year to ensure requirements are being met. When practitioners renew their practising certificate they will be required to declare whether they have complied with the CPD Scheme Rules. Practitioners will be notified by mail if they have been selected for audit, and will be required to specify the activities claimed and possibly provide supporting documents.
“If you are going to have a scheme you must have some form of audit compliance,” Dale explained. “I expect everyone will meet minimum requirement. It’s important that the LIV have a function in ensuring there is proper compliance, or the system would break down.”
Also, there are three compulsory subjects in the scheme, including Ethics, Trust Accounts and Equal Opportunity. None of these need to be taken every year, but should be included in a practitioner’s commitment at intervals of between three and five years.
Solicitors also need to take part in a range of CPD activities. These may include attending seminars, workshops and lectures; preparing or presenting law lectures; participating in organised discussion groups, private study of video or audio tapes; online learning packages; and taking part in courses run by educational institutions, professional bodies or employers.