Continuing professional development
Continuing professional development
Continuing professional development (CPD) is an essential part of a profession’s activities. It ensures that members are continually updating and improving their skills, thereby maintaining the quality of the services delivered to their clients and the general public.
CPD for lawyers that is meaningful and relevant is important for maintaining excellence in the provision of legal services to both businesses and the community. The focus for lawyers should be on good learning and development outcomes, rather than on compliance as an aim in itself.
If you hold a current practising certificate, you need to complete 10 hours of CPD activities each year. The CPD year runs from 1 April through to 31 March of the following year.
Our review into CPD in Victoria has now been released. The report, ‘Getting the Point? Review of Continuing Professional Development for Victorian Lawyers’ makes 28 recommendations to improve CPD to enable the legal profession to have meaningful, relevant and accessible learning opportunities that enrich the quality of legal services provided to the Victorian community.
The review was conducted in June and July of 2020 by independent consultant, Mr Chris Humphreys. The review heard from over 170 organisations and individuals, including lawyers, education providers, regulators and professional associations, who shared their experiences and views of CPD arrangements both in Victorian and other jurisdictions.
Read more about the review and report here.
The Rules explain that you must complete at least one hour in each of the following four fields:
- ethics and professional responsibility;
- practice management and business skills;
- professional skills; and
- substantive law.
There are a range of options for completing CPD. You can:
- participate in a lecture, seminar, workshop or discussion group – either in person or via web-based programme, such as a webinar. Webinars and online activities should take place in real time and/or involve an interactive element
- research, prepare and/or edit a legal article
- prepare and/or present CPD activity
- be a member of a legal committee, taskforce or practice section, if the work is of substantial significance to the practice of law and assists your professional development
- postgraduate studies relevant to your practice needs
- undertake private study of audio/visual materials or other educational activities if it is specifically designed to update your knowledge and/or skills relevant to your practice needs. Please note that watching a recorded webinar (not live) falls into the category of private study
There are limits to the number of hours you can do for each activity, please see the table below.
|CPD Activity||Units of Activity||Limits that Apply|
|Participate in a lecture, seminar, workshop or discussion group||1 unit per hour of activity||No limits|
|Research, prepare and/or edit a legal article||1 unit per 1,000 words||No more than 5 CPD units per year|
|Prepare and/or present CPD activity||1 unit per hour of activity||No more than 5 CPD units per year|
|Be a member of a legal committee, taskforce or practice section||1 unit per 2 hours of activity||No more than 3 CPD units per year|
|Postgraduate studies||1 unit per hour of activity||No limits|
|Private study of audio/visual materials or other educational activities||1 unit per hour of activity||No limits for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 practising year|
The Law Institute of Victoria Accreditation Specialisation program can also be completed as part of your CPD for a total of 10 points. The program accredits more than 1,000 specialists across 16 areas of law and allows lawyers to be recognised as having an enhanced skill level and experience in their area of law. Lawyers need to demonstrate superior knowledge, experience and proficiency in a particular area of law to become an accredited specialist, and need to maintain their accreditation.
You must keep a record of all the CPD activities you complete for at least three years.
Update due to Coronavirus COVID-19
For the 2019/20 and 2020/21 practising years the cap on private study of 5 hours has been removed due to face-to-face CPD events being cancelled and the need to practise social distancing and/or working remotely due to Covid-19.
10 units of CPD is still required to be completed by 31 March 2021, but can be done through private study of relevant audio/visual material.
During the 2020/21 practising certificate renewal you can tick the ‘Yes’ box even if, due to the special circumstances arising from COVID-19, you have exceeded the 5 unit cap on private study of audio/visual material to complete your required 10 CPD units. The PC renewal process will then proceed as normal.
Bushfire affected lawyers
If you lived or worked in a bushfire-affected area during the 2019/20 practising year you could also complete your 10 units of CPD via private study of relevant audio/visual material (as outlined above).
Alternatively, if you did not fulfil the 10 units of CPD and lived or worked in a bushfire-affected area, you are fully exempted from the requirement to undertake CPD activities for the CPD year ending 31 March 2020. If you would like an exemption, please select ‘No’ when completing your PC renewal in answer to the CPD compliance question. The LIV (or the Victorian Bar for barristers) will then contact you on our behalf to arrange an exemption.
Other lawyers who are unable to comply with CPD requirements
If you were unable to comply with your CPD obligations for other reasons (e.g. illness or other special circumstances) you can seek an exemption from the requirement to undertake CPD activities in full or in part. These applications for exemption are processed by the LIV or the Victorian Bar as normal.
When you apply to renew your practising certificate, you must declare whether you’ve met your CPD obligations for the year. If you haven’t met your obligations, you should provide details of any exemptions granted to you, or include a rectification plan with your renewal application (see ‘Making up for missed CPD’ below).
Each year the Victorian Bar and the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) carry out audits of lawyers’ CPD compliance on our behalf. Our Continuing Professional Development Policy outlines how they exercise these powers. These ‘verification audits’ can cover the most recent CPD year, or any of the three previous years.
If you’re selected for an audit, you must verify within 21 days that you’ve met your CPD obligations. You can provide any of the following documents to prove you have attended each CPD session:
- your CPD attendance record; or
- supporting evidence (e.g. receipts, copies of presentation notes, copies of enrolment records or certificates of completion).
Making up for missed CPD
If you haven’t met your CPD obligations for the year, you’ll receive a written notice asking you to submit a rectification plan within 21 days. Your plan must set out the CPD activities that you intend to take to make up for the CPD you missed, and you will be given 90 days to complete those activities. You can download a rectification plan template here [link to be uploaded].
You can get an exemption from completing some or all of your CPD activities for the year under certain circumstances. Some reasons for exemption include:
- if you have a disability or you have suffered an illness;
- if you work in a remote area and do not have access to CPD resources; and
- if you work part time, or reduced hours.
You can also get an exemption if you only practised for part of the CPD year. In this case you only need to complete CPD units for the time that you held a practising certificate. The pro-rata calculation table in the CPD rules will show you how many units you need to complete.
What happens if you don't complete your CPD?
If you don’t meet your CPD obligations, your practising certificate may not be renewed on time. We may wait until you have either met your obligations or established a rectification plan before processing your application.
In some circumstances, we may also consider disciplinary action against you which may result in disciplinary action against you or affect your suitability to practise.