Blogging Can Fulfil Ontario CPD Requirement

If you’re keen on law blogging, the way we are here at Slaw, you’ll be pleased to note that the recent changes to the Law Society of Upper Canada’s requirements for continuing professional development make it clear that bloggers can get CPD credit. This might give a little boost to those who might otherwise hesitate on the threshold.

The relevant change to the rules states:

lsuc_logo

2. Writing and editing for firm publications are now eligible activities

Writing and editing for firm or other in-house publications are now eligible CPD activities, to a maximum of 6 Hours annually. Previously, only writing and editing of materials for third-party publication or course materials were eligible. Writing for personal use, such as blogging, remains ineligible for CPD Hours.

LSUC’s curious use of the word “blogging” probably shows they don’t quite get it: they’re still stuck back a decade or more, when “blogging” was synonymous with personal journaling. But just to be sure, I double checked with LSUC’s coordinator of CPD Accreditation both about “blogging” as currently understood (and about blogging on Slaw. She assured me that:

Provided the purpose of the blog is not to advertise the lawyer or paralegal’s services, then yes – publishing a blog post is an eligible activity for purposes of the CPD Requirement.

[hat tip: Slaw columnist Mark Hunter]

Retweet information »

Comments

  1. David Cheifetz

    “Provided the purpose of the blog is not to advertise the lawyer or paralegal’s services”????

    Perhaps we should read that as “not primarily to advertise” because most most law firm blogs exist to advertise the firm, above the minimal content.

    Even blogs such as, for example, Michael Geist’s or Steve Cavanagh’s, which are primarily informative, have the secondary purpose of getting the author’s name out.

    Of course, there are also blogs like mine which don’t do either very well (according to some). They’re probable right about the advertising.

  2. Hopefully the changes to the accredited professionalism requirement will bring more options. I’ve found that it can be difficult to find relevant courses to get those hours, and have taken courses that have little to do with my practice for the sole reason of getting the hours.

  3. Roy Thomas, Director of Communications, Law Society of Upper Canada

    Thank you for pointing out the need to clarify this aspect of the CPD Requirement. Writing and editing articles, including blog posts, are eligible CPD activities. The content must be law-related, within the CPD definition and sufficiently rigorous that it serves to maintain or enhance the competence of the author. The article may be intended for publication by a third party, or included as part of an in-house or firm publication. Articles written for personal use or advertising purposes are not eligible.

  4. [Ed. note: Mr Chasse has made available his longer letter to the LSUC touching on these points.]

    Good for the LSUC’s CPD people! Blogging will be greatly stimulated by such CPD accreditation, particularly so for these reasons:

    1. In regard to blogging’s response time as to seeing one’s name and work in published print, it is very tempting not to have to wait for the acceptance of one’s work by a law journal editor, particularly when one’s work is sent out for “peer review.” And not only have to wait for the editor’s acceptance, but also the considerable publishing delay that many journals endure.

    2. Blogs are much more widely read than law journals, particularly so because they are free (“open access”). It gets expensive to subscribe to several law journals when only 1 in every 8 to 10 articles is of interest. Greater specialization by law journals would improve that ratio, although the publishers would worry that specialization could fatally reduce the subscriber population. But there are a number of very important specialized “hot topics,” that will stay “hot,” important, and popular, for many years. For example, Canada needs a journal devoted to electronic discovery. Its high cost, dependence upon the quality of electronic records management, interdependence with admissibility of evidence rules and practices, and development of TAR (technology aided review) software, which in itself raises many complex issues, will maintain disclosure and discovery’s importance to all litigators for many years to come. And “information technology law,” which encompasses the laws of: (1) electronic records management (in itself a potentially large field for lawyers); (2) privacy and access to information; and, (3) electronic commerce, needs a law journal, as well as a “specialization” designation by the LSUC, and other law societies that provide various types of specialists’ accreditation. Law journals will have to become more specialized because, to cut costs, so that more people can afford lawyers, a greater percentage of lawyers have to become specialists, not just for clients, but also to serve other lawyers; see: “Xaas: Everything as a Service; online: http://www.aceds.org/xaas-everything-as-a-service/.

    3. However, the quality of blog articles varies greatly. Some are more appropriate to social networking and informal conversation. In comparison, law journals use the rules and practices of formal legal writing, and therefore still have more respect. But, there is no reason why a blog couldn’t apply such standards and gain equal respect.

    4. A CPD spokesperson at the Law Society of British Columbia tells me that credits for blogging will be considered at their next CPD Committee meeting. The LSUC’s blog-accreditation should increase the probability of a favourable response. However, I would guess that there might be some concern as to the time and labour needed to screen blog articles. Whereas the CPD people can rely on the standard screening and editing practices of law journals, so as not to have to read the articles for which credit is claimed, they would have to read the blog articles because their quality and subject matter varies (“is it legal stuff?”).

    5. But, one can get only 6 of the required substantive 12 credits/hours by way of legal writing, wherever it is published. But blogging can lead to other performances for which CPD credit is recognized, such as speaking at conferences and to law school classes.

    6. Taking all into consideration, I think that CPD accreditation will result in more blog writing and less law journal writing, but which in turn may cause law journals to respond by correcting the defects cited above.
    – Ken Chasse, member of the Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario), and of the Law Society of British Columbia.

  5. David Cheifetz

    Mr. Thomas,

    I’m going to indulge in some overkill. If you want to skip it, just read the line with the bold emphasis.

    I agree that law blogging should be included. I’ve problems with your description of the qualifying requirements.

    Show me one communally written law firm blog that isn’t written for advertising

    The content of most communally staffed law firm blogs tends to be a précis of recent cases, or sometimes new legislation.

    I assume the Society isn’t going to hire a legion of blog readers decide if the blog is “sufficiently rigorous that it serves to maintain or enhance the competence of the author”?

    Come to think of it – unless the reader is at least as competent as the writer, and knows something about the writer, the reader wouldn’t know if the blog serves to maintain or enhance the competence of the writer).

    Next, I suspect it’s the rare blog which is written to “maintain or enhance the competence of the author”, except where the blog is written by people who aren’t expert in the area(s) they’re writing about.

    But, more importantly, What about the readers? If there is to be a qualifying threshold, shouldn’t it be something analogous to: “sufficiently rigorous that it serves to maintain or enhance the competence of the author or others“?

    Blogs are teaching tools or advertising tools.

    If we remove advertising, and personal use, what’s left that’s significant or than the competence of others? That’s teaching.

    Let’s use my 4th Monkey blog to see if the “sufficiently rigorous that it serves to maintain or enhance the competence of the author” standard applies. My answer is “no”.

    It is rigorous.

    It’s lousy advertising.

    But it it’s stretching a point to say that writing that material maintains or enhances my competence. If I’m writing at a very basic level, that’s doing nothing to enhance my competence. It’s very generous to say that I’m maintaining my competence when I’m repeating things I’ve said elsewhere.

    If I’m writing at an expert level it’s because I’m summarizing something I’ve written elsewhere. Perhaps we could generously call that maintaining my competence.

    On the other hand, I’d not write the material if it thought it didn’t have a chance of maybe helping others.

    Cheers,

  6. David Cheifetz

    There’s no practical way for law societies to screen blog material for merit any more than there’s a practical way for law societies to screen traditional papers and texts for merit.

    What would be the test for content? More advanced than the knowledge level of the least competent person engaged by the society to check on the blogs of those who claim credit for blogging?

    You’ll recall the classic comment about the definition of obscenity provided by a SCOTUS judge? That’s the quagmire the law societies will step into if they attempt to regulate blog content eligibility on any basis other than honour. “See the dog walk” might be an adequate threshold in some cases. In others, it’ll have to be “observe the canine perambulate” – but one won’t know until one looks. Assuming one is qualified to judge.

    Cheers,

  7. David, the point of mandatory professional development is to force lawyers to research, think and write and about the law. The quality of the researching, thinking and writing is not the issue. As you noted above:

    “The content of most communally staffed law firm blogs tends to be a précis of recent cases, or sometimes new legislation.”

    In order to write even the most basic précis of recent cases and new legislation, the lawyers must first be reading caselaw and perusing legislation. That’s the point of the excercise. Crediting the product just provides a convenient metric to track that activity.

    As far as I can tell, the law society’s purpose isn’t to ensure that lawyers are on a consistent upward trajectory of excellence, it’s to require that they are exerting a modicum of effort to interact with the rest of the profession and retain the basic ability to think like a lawyer. Anything more than that is gravy.

  8. David Cheifetz

    Bart,

    “the point of mandatory professional development is to force lawyers to research, think and write and about the law”

    That’s a bit rose-coloured, I think.

    Anyone else who is doing what you’ve described (for reasons other than the minimum required to process his or her work) isn’t doing that because of the mandatory continuing eductation requirement but because he or she understands what is required to do his or her work properly.

    David Canton made the point elegantly when he noted he’s had to take courses unrelated to his areas of practice – he didn’t mention how disinterested he was – to fulfil the LSUC’s quota.

    I think the law societies’ purpose in requiring continuing professional education is also to maintain the impression that the regulatory body is attempting to keep lawyers up to date and increase the chance that the few who’d otherwise do very little to stay current serendipitously learn something that’ll reduce the risk of screw-ups.

    I’m in favour of mandatory continuing education. But I’m doubtful there will ever be any basis for concluding the current form of regime makes a significant enough difference to competence, across the legal community, to justify it on that basis. Nonetheless, I’ll accept the argument that it’s enough if it saves one client lawyer’s from misfortune.

    Perhaps Dan Pinnington could advise whether Ontario statistics show a significant decrease in e & o errors related to lack of knowledge since Ontario’s regime began.

  9. David, I’m not defending the quota system. I was responding to your suggestion that it’s unrealistic for LSUC to monitor the quality of legal blogging by saying that the point is quantity, not quality.

  10. David Cheifetz

    OK. I missed that.

    Still, I wonder if the LSUC agrees with you, if we take Roy Thomas at his word. “The content must be law-related, within the CPD definition and sufficiently rigorous that it serves to maintain or enhance the competence of the author.” I suppose it depends on how low one sets the competence threshold.

Leave a Reply

(Your email address will not be published or distributed)