CPD and the Futures Report

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.


  1. An excellent post Susan.

    The recent Legal Education and Training Review [2013] in the United Kingdom and Wales is really the “state-of-the-art” examination of the continuum of legal education from law school through continuing professional development. It is competency-based and outcomes-focused, consistent with work in other major professions, but typically lacking in many studies in legal education.

    Although only a part of the work of the CBA Futures Initiative, the section of the Final Report on Legal Education appears to draw on many of the same themes that appear in the LETR Report. The CBA Futures Report should serve to draw together the key players along the legal education continuum in Canada for a contemporary review of law school education, bar admission education, and continuing professional development. Given work on the part of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada through separate initiatives in each of these areas, the FLSC might be the appropriate vehicle.

    As for that part of the CBA Futures Report touching on continuing professional development [section 7.11], the commentary and recommendation clearly draws on work done for the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority contemporaneously with LETR by Nottingham Law School, for the Bar Standards Board, again contemporaneously with LETR by the Wood Review [no relation], by the LETR Report itself and the responses by the SRA and the BSB to the LETR Report.

    These developments were the subject of presentation to and discussion at the Fall 2012 meeting of the Association of Canadian Legal Education Directors [ACLED]. The Fall 2013 meeting of ACLED heard from the lead researcher for LETR, Julian Webb. Staff with the CBA Futures Initiative were present at those meetings.

    It should be noted in passing the Fall 2012 ACLED Meeting heard the results of the Charis Report which reviewed the Law Society of Alberta’s mandatory Continuing Professional Development program which is outcomes focused, centered on self-directed planning by lawyers, and consistent with the scheme being implemented by the New Zealand Law Society, and the new direction outlined by the SRA.

    In all cases, the conclusions are wholly consistent with those in the CBA Futures Report, “[i]f the goal of CPD is to improve competence, then more valid measures of the process would be outcomes rather than inputs (hours of study).”

    The Critical Issues Summit Working Group of the Association for Continuing Legal Education [ACLEA], should incorporate within its considerations the excellent work of the CBA Futures Initiative, in addition to current developments in the UK and Wales. Sharing ideas and perspectives benefits the work of all.