Law Grad in Pink is a blog written by a law graduate in Adelaide for law graduates everywhere.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

How do I comply with Continued Professional Development (CPD) requirements? How do I keep track of my CPD points?

As a junior lawyer with a restricted practicing certificate, the world of CPD points can seem confusing. Colleagues may tell you not to worry too much, and to just follow them to whatever seminars they are going to. This is a risky approach. It is your responsibility to make sure you are compliant. It is your practicing certificate is on the line (though you get a fair few second chances before it comes to this).

Note: this blog post is relevant to solicitors working in NSW and Victoria under the Legal Profession Uniform Laws. CPD requirements outside of these jurisdictions will vary. Different rules apply to Barristers.  

Where do I find the law on CPD requirements?
The detailed law is contained in the Legal Profession Uniform Continuing Professional Development (Solicitor) Rules 2015 (CPD Rules). The enabling legislation for the CPD Rules is the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (Vic). Section 427 of the Act permits Continuing Professional Development Rules to be developed by the Law Council of Australia, which must be approved by the Legal Services Council before submitted to the Standing Committee. The CPD Rules can require practitioners to comply with provisions for continuing professional development and may provide for any aspect of continuing professional development (s.424).

What are the most important CPD Rules?
The most important rules are the minimum CPD requirements in Rules 5 and 6. A minimum of 10 CPD units each year must be completed, including at least one unit in each of the four following fields:
1.       Ethics and professional responsibility;
2.       Practice management and business skills;
3.       Professional skills; and
4.       Substantive law.

The CPD year runs from 1 April to 31 March, which is why you often see lawyers scrounging around for any CPD points they can get their hands on in the month of March.  If you received your practising certificate midway through the CPD year, the number of CPD points you need to obtain is reduced pro rata. For example, my practising certificate commenced in September 2015, so I only have to obtain 5 CPD points this CPD year. See Rule 10 for the pro rata reduction relevant to you.

Don’t stop at 10 points...
If you have excess points at the end of the CPD year, you can carry a maximum of 3 points across to the new CPD year (Rule 11).

How do I know how many units a CPD activity is worth?
Most seminars will state how many CPD points attendance at the seminar is worth. However, you should always check this figure and there will be situations where you have to calculate the relevant CPD points yourself. This grid shows the type of activity and relevant CPD points. I made this grid by combining the data from Rules 8 and 9:

Type of activity
Activity Rule reference
How to calculate units
Maximum units you can claim for this type of activity in  a CPD year
Seminar, workshop, lecture, conference etc
One point for one hour of the activity
No limit
Researching, preparing or editing of an article in a legal publication, a legal article in a non-legal publication or published Law Reports
One point for every 1000 words of the article
Preparation and/or presentation of written or oral material to be used in a CPD activity or other form of legal education
One point for one hour of the activity
Membership of a committee, taskforce or practice section of a professional association, designated local regulatory authority or the Law Council of Australia or of other committees, provided that the solicitor regularly attends its meetings, if the work performed on the committee, taskforce or practice section is of substantial significance to the practice of law and is reasonably likely to assist the solicitor’s professional development
One point for every two hours of the activity
Postgraduate studies relevant to practice needs
One point for one hour of the activity
No limit
Private study of audio-visual material specifically designed to update knowledge and/or skills relevant to the solicitor’s practice needs
One point for one hour of the activity
Completion of a specialist accreditation assessment process

You need to take record keeping seriously
You might have colleagues who don’t bother recording their CPD points until the end of the CPD year where they then struggle to remember what points they have accrued. You may have colleagues who copy each other’s CPD record, as they assume they attended the same seminars throughout the year. This is a risky practice. You can be subjected to a CPD audit at any time where you will be required to produce your record and evidence. You must retain your record and evidence for at least three years (Rule 12). If you are audited you will have 21 days to provide your record and evidence to the auditor (Rule 14).

How do I report my CPD points?
CPD points are certified on an annual basis. When you reapply for your practicing certificate you will be required to certify that you complied with the CPD Rules the previous year (Rule 13).

How should I keep a record of my CPD points?
As you attend each CPD activity write it in your record and print proof of your attendance/enrollment in the activity. This is the form I use to record my CPD points. Feel free to use it for yourself.

Date activity undertaken
Description of CPD Activity
CPD Category
CPD points

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