The CBA Futures Report was released last week. The final topic in this wide-ranging report was legal education: law school, pre-call training, and CPD. The entire report is interesting, but the legal education section is especially interesting to me.
It’s impossible to argue with the most of the statements the report; many of the recommendations are music to my ears; for example, that lawyers should engage in life-long learning.
Legal education issues have received such a lot of attention recently, particularly issues of affordability, whether legal education makes new lawyers practice-ready, or whether all or part of an undergrad degree is needed before attending law school.
The conversation is somewhat different south of the border, where everything is more extreme; law school is much more expensive, good jobs are more difficult to find, and there is no formal pre-call training (that is, no articling or bar admission programs). These issues were thoughtfully canvassed in a report of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education. The report was highlighted here back in February; the full report deserves a close read.
Back to the CBA report: the part that really got my attention was the recommendations about CPD. I was interested to track the genesis of the recommendations in the report. Where did the ideas come from? Who said what and when? Who was consulted? What evidence did they refer to? Is there any data that I could also refer to?
I tried to trace some of the ideas through the consultation documents and twitter chats. A good discussion of mandatory CPD is included in Jordan Furlong’s April 2013 blog. Many of the ideas expressed there make an appearance in the Futures report. The comments to his post really stand out; this is where I found CLE leaders responding thoughtfully to his ideas.
But I was unable to find a more explicit connection or information exchange between the Futures project, the regulators (that is the Law Societies), and the CPD providers.
There’s a thriving community of CLE providers in Canada; we meet regularly in Canada and at meetings of ACLEA, the international Association for Continuing Legal Education.
In 2009, ALI-ABA (now the ALI) and ACLEA collaborated on a Critical Issues Summit:
… on critical issues facing continuing legal education providers, law schools, and the legal profession in equipping today’s legal practitioners. This high-level invitational conference … called together CLE professionals, law practitioners, bar leaders, judges, law professors, mandatory CLE administrators, law firm educators, and other experts on lawyer professional education to study and respond to these challenges.
The Summit’s Final Report contains a series of recommendations for lawyer professional education. For example:
Recommendation 2: … law schools, the bar, and the bench should partner in the career-long development of lawyer competencies. In particular, law schools should initiate the continuum of legal education by integrating into their curricula the core practice competencies described in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the MacCrate Report, the Carnegie Report, and the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education competency evaluation program in achieving their desired learning outcomes.
Recommendation 8: MCLE regulators should accredit training in the content or skills necessary to effectively practice law, even if such content or skills are not directly related to substantive law.
Recommendation 9: MCLE regulators and CLE providers should work together to develop and implement means of measuring the effectiveness of CLE offerings.
There’s much more as well, and each of these recommendations is worthy of a column on its own. If you’re interested in CPD for lawyers at all, it is required reading. I’d love to see the champions of the Legal Futures Committee connect with the Critical Issues Summit working group. (The working group meets at every ACLEA meeting.) A great way to move forward with the Legal Futures Committees’ CPD recommendations would be to connect with the ongoing discussion at ACLEA.