February 27, 2020
Leading a New Era of Lawyer Competency
CPD requirement suspended for 2020 & 2021  

The Law Society is suspending the mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) filing requirement for the profession for the years 2020 and 2021. This will allow us to dedicate our efforts to rebuilding a new competence model that will aspire to empower and equip lawyers to provide the best legal services they can to Albertans. 

“We want to go beyond setting a minimum standard for competence,” says Kent Teskey, QC, President of the Law Society of Alberta. “A modern and dynamic competence framework may look entirely different from what is in place today and that is why we have created a space to cultivate a new era of lawyer competency.” 

To find out more about the reasons for this decision, read the President’s Message or this FAQ.

Encouraging lifelong learning

Although the mandatory filing requirement has been lifted for the years 2020 and 2021, lawyers are still encouraged to develop an annual CPD plan. The CPD planning tool through the Lawyer Portal will continue to be available to track and declare professional development activities in 2020 and 2021. 

Learning doesn’t stop once law school ends. Like other professions, lawyers must stay up to speed with technology, issues and consumer needs. Taking the time to schedule professional development benefits you as a lawyer, your law firm or organization and your clients.

The Law Society Code of Conduct , Chapter 3, also imposes an ethical responsibility on lawyers to be competent in all legal services undertaken on a client’s behalf. It remains the responsibility of every Alberta lawyer to maintain their own competence and self-assess areas for improvement.

The path forward

Through this work, the Law Society of Alberta will promote high standards of competence and wellness. We want to:
  • be sure that competency requirements are relevant and proportionate to the stage and setting of lawyers' careers;
  • broaden the concept of competency to extend into non-traditional areas such as technology and general cultural competence; and
  • reduce stigma related to mental and physical health issues by creating a supportive environment for lawyers to ask for help or resources. 

We will invite Alberta lawyers and students, as well as legal organizations, to participate in the conversations to come around the next phase of lawyer competency. This work will include two major projects:
  1. Develop a new competence framework for a lawyer’s entire career that is proportionate, effective and dynamic, and incorporates wellness as a key component. 
  2. Establish an Indigenous cultural competency requirement for all Alberta lawyers to meaningfully address our obligation arising from the TRC’s calls to action.

We want to raise the bar on competence requirements to better support the 21st century lawyer in providing legal services to Albertans.  
February Board Recap Video
Join our President, Kent Teskey, QC and President-Elect, Darlene W. Scott, QC, as they walk through the discussions and decisions of the latest Board meeting. On the agenda:

  • Suspension of mandatory CPD requirement for 2020 and 2021
  • Code Amendment on Technological Competence
  • Bencher Election discussion
  • Lawyer Referral Service update
Code of Conduct Changes
A new version of the Code of Conduct is available following the February 2020 Board meeting. Changes to the commentary were approved following Rule 3.1-2 of the Code of Conduct, confirming lawyers’ obligations to maintain technological competence. The amendment mirrors the language adopted in the Federation of Law Societies’ Model Code in October 2019.

The amendments are found in new paragraphs 5 and 6 of commentary following Rule 3.1-2. Lawyers should understand the technology they use in their practices and should understand its risks and benefits. The amendment does not require lawyers to purchase the latest and most expensive technological solutions. They need to know how to effectively use the technology they or their clients actually use. When considering technological solutions in practice, firms and organizations may consider the price and availability of the technology, their practice areas, their clients’ requirements and their location. 

The duty to be technologically competent is not ‘one size fits all’ and is defined by the context of the lawyer’s practice circumstances. The ability to obtain and support any technological solution is often affected by the price of purchasing and supporting it, and a firm may also need to consider whether the technology will create efficiencies for the firm or for clients. In the case of more complex technological solutions, competence may be achieved by engaging with a knowledgeable staff member or consultant. The lawyer then has an obligation to supervise, to ensure the employee or consultant understands and maintains the same ethical standards and responsibilities with which the lawyer must comply.

The duty of technological competence is related to functions such as:
  • conducting legal research;
  • communicating with clients;
  • maintaining the continuity of a practice in the face of interruptions; and 
  • maintaining privilege and confidentiality. 

Protection of confidentiality is the legal profession’s most basic obligation, and must always be top of mind. Other related ethical issues include the obligation to charge fair and reasonable fees. To the extent that artificial intelligence or computer-based research or practice management tools can keep client costs down, lawyers should be aware of their benefits. 
PREP Schedule Change Announcement
As the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED) continues to develop and prepare to launch the new Practice Readiness Education Program (PREP), refinements to their processes are ongoing and this has resulted in minor changes to the previously released schedule.  

CPLED has been consulting with key stakeholders across participant jurisdictions to ensure they are delivering the highest quality Bar admission program while understanding the unique needs of each jurisdiction. As a result, the  PREP schedule has been slightly adjusted to not impact Bar call dates.

“PREP prepares young lawyers to meet the highest standards once called to the Bar, and we didn’t want to delay Bar call dates in any way,” says Dr. Kara Mitchelmore, CEO of CPLED. “We know that our students are anxious to get their legal careers underway.”

Under the new schedule, students will still have flexibility as to when they begin the online Foundation Modules, which opens on Monday, June 1. The schedule adjustments will ensure enough time for CPLED to assess and release the final assessment results by Friday, May 14, 2021. 

“Maintaining the integrity of the program while not delaying students entering the profession is of the utmost importance to CPLED, and we believe we have accomplished this with the new schedule,” says Dr. Mitchelmore.

Due to the schedule change, registration will now open on Tuesday, March 31 at www.cpled.ca . Students are encouraged to register early to ensure they select the schedule that best suits their needs.

To stay up to date on the latest CPLED news, subscribe to the monthly e-newsletter.

For more information on PREP, visit www.cpled.ca