CPD basics for Ontario associates

CPD basics for Ontario associates
As a junior lawyer, and relatively new to this self-regulating profession, I am a touch sensitive to any communications from the Law Society of Upper Canada. So, when I recently got an e-mail from the law society reminding me I hadn’t entered into the portal any of my continuing professional development time this year, I had a mini-panic..

Didn’t I read somewhere that changes were made recently to CPD rules? Were those effective immediately? Am I in compliance? What were those “new member” requirements again? It occurred to me I really had no idea where I stood for CPD hours for the year, or what the current requirements were. Not a good feeling.

What I do know is I don’t want to screw up my CPD hours. Lawyers can face even more anxiety-provoking e-mails advising of an administrative suspension, late reporting fees, and reinstatement fees if they don’t meet requirements. To avoid this trouble, here’s what associates need to know.

Basic requirement

New members (currently meaning lawyers called to the bar in or after June 2011) are required to complete 12 CPD hours per calendar year, including a minimum of three professionalism hours and up to nine substantive hours. Here’s the kicker: all 12 hours must be obtained through programs and activities that have been accredited for at least 0.5 professionalism hours.

Once we graduate from our “new member” status, or when it’s eliminated next year (see below), the basic requirement is 12 hours (nine substantive, three professionalism). Period. That’s a relief.

Magic changes

Some changes were made by Convocation this May. Some come into effect right away, while others are effective next year. You can get the full scoop on the changes here. To spare you the time, these are the most important changes for associates:

Co-writing and co-editing are now eligible activities for up to 6 CPD hours per year! Previously, lawyers had to be sole authors in order to receive any CPD credit. This change is terrific news for us junior lawyers that usually co-author articles along with a more senior lawyer. The changes do not have retroactive application, so if you co-authored an article before May of this year (like me), you’re out of luck.

In addition to co-writing and co-editing, writing and editing for firm publications are now eligible activities. For associate lawyers who “volunteer” to write for in-firm publications, that time is now eligible for CPD credit up to six hours per year.

Effective January 2014, the separate new member requirement will be eliminated. This requirement has been eliminated precisely when my cohort was scheduled to graduate from new member status. It feels like the elimination of OAC all over again! I’m not bitter.

While the 2014 calls will be spared the new member madness, starting next year, lawyers will be expected to complete CPD hours for the “stump year” on a pro-rata basis. Consequently, a June 2014 call will have to complete half the usual requirement of 12 CPD hours (so, six hours total, including 1.5 hours of professionalism) by Dec. 31, 2014. This is more stringent than before. I had 1.5 years (from June 2011-December 2012) to complete my first 12 CPD hours.

In addition to the risk of administration suspension, the LSUC is also implementing late fees for lawyers who don’t complete or fail to report their CPD hours by Dec. 31, 2014. If you’ve been administratively suspended, you will also have to pay a reinstatement fee to get back in the good books.

Also good to know

Acting as a judge or coach in a mooting competition at the law school level is an eligible educational activity (up to six hours per year). Who knew? This is a great way for associates to network with law schools and new lawyers while picking up CPD hours. I love my annual trek back to the University of Ottawa to judge the first-year moot court competition. Starting next year, when I’m no longer a new member, I’ll be able to report that time for CPD credit.

Volunteer or part-time writing activities are also eligible up to six hours per year. However, in order for those hours to qualify as “new member CPD hours” under the current regime, the writing must address topics of professional responsibility, ethics, and/or practice management and must be accredited in advance by the LSUC. Again, this won’t be required next year.

In 2014, I could meet my CPD requirements just by judging a moot for a day and writing my monthly column. Of course, I’d still like to take advantage of other CLE opportunities, but it’s nice to not be doing so under threat of suspension.

Keep a CPD File

Finally, for all the effort you’ve gone to in crafting an eligible CPD program, keep all of your materials (agendas, papers, and attendee lists, if applicable). As rumoured, the law society does, in fact, do CPD audits. You smirk, but they do! It happened to me. I had to provide course materials and proof of attendance for each and every program I attended in 2012. It’s easy enough to keep a CPD file for each year that you maintain until the end of the following calendar year. Do it . . . and keep those law society e-mails at bay.

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