CPD Hours Demystified

Legal Practice Library Lab: Caselaw Sources

Legal Practice Library (Photo credit: William & Mary Law Library)

Note: Convocation has changed elements of the CPD Requirement. Some changes took effect May 30, 2013; others are being phased-in. Read about those changes in SCOPE.

Continuing Professional Development is mandatory for paralegals, under the Law Society of Upper Canada rules. Why? Our regulatory body offers these reasons at its website:

“Continuing professional development (CPD) is defined as the maintenance and enhancement of a lawyer’s or paralegal’s professional knowledge, skills, attitudes and professionalism throughout the individual’s career. It is a positive tool that benefits lawyers and paralegals and is an essential component of the commitment they make to the public to practise law or provide legal services competently and ethically. The Law Society has an important role to play in supporting the efforts of lawyers and paralegals to maintain and enhance that competence. It also has a duty to ensure that all persons who practise law or provide legal services in Ontario meet standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct that are appropriate for the legal services they provide.”

Here is the lowdown – the how, why and when — on CPD for paralegals:

Professionalism Hours:
Professionalism Hours are LSUC-accredited programs and activities on ethics, professional responsibility and/or practice management. Experienced paralegals must complete a minimum of three Professionalism Hours per calendar year. These hours may include time spent teaching topics of professional responsibility, ethics and/or practice management. If a program focusing on substantive or procedural law includes professionalism content on related topics and issues, that portion of the program may be eligible for Professionalism Hours. Professionalism topics include such areas as: client identification, managing the difficult client, dealing with self-represented parties, and risk management.

Substantive Hours:
These are programs and activities that address substantive and procedural law, related skills, or relevant non-legal topics. Substantive hours do not require accreditation by the Law Society. Experienced paralegals may complete up to nine substantive hours per calendar year. These hours may include time spent teaching substantive or procedural law. Teaching time may be counted for a total of six hours per year. (Professionalism, Substantive or both)

Accredited programs:
These are formal, instruction-based sessions, usually offered by organizations such as education providers, associations, law firms, government associations and industry groups. Self-study does not count.

Accredited activities:
A broad range of non-program learning methods such as teaching, writing, mentoring, and participation in study groups of two or more colleagues count as accredited activities under the existing rules. Alternative eligible activities must be accredited in advance before they can be put towards Professionalism Hours. See the CPD Accreditation Process. Viewing archived webcasts, video replays or other recorded program formats without a colleague, and participating in asynchronous, online courses which prompt responses throughout the learning process are eligible activities for up to six CPD hours in the year.

Alternate Educational Activities:
This term includes a range of alternate educational activities in a non-formal setting.

Among the alternative activities are: teaching; mentoring or being mentored, or supervising a paralegal field placement; writing and editing books or articles; participating in study groups with two or more paralegals; educational activities in which the subject matter is related to the law of other provinces and countries, including non-legal subjects if these are relevant to the paralegal’s practice and development as a practitioner. Information sessions for clients, or writing and editing client bulletins, for the purpose of “teaching” may be eligible, if it is not primarily a “sales pitch,” and maintains or enhances the paralegal’s professional knowledge, skills, attitudes and ethics.

Alternate eligible activities must be accredited in advance by the Law Society to count towards CPD hours. See the record-keeping requirements for alternative activities.

Professionalism Case Study:
These are descriptions of an actual situation in which a paralegal is faced with a decision involving one or more ethical, professional responsibility or practice management issues. These studies are eligible for accreditation when they are used in the context of Study Group sessions or programs involving two or more paralegals. The Study Group session must be accredited in advance to quality for CPD hours for facilitators and participants.

New member requirement (In effect until 2014, see note below):
Professionalism Hours are emphasized during their first two years for newly licensed paralegals. The yearly 12-hour requirement in accredited programs or activities, consisting of a minimum of three Professionalism Hours and a maximum of nine Substantive Hours, applies.

In addition, new members must obtain all 12 CPD hours through programs and activities that have each been accredited for at least 0.5 Professionalism hours. New members must apply for accreditation of alternate educational activities. New licensees may begin accumulating CPD Hours for their first-year requirement at any point following their call to the bar or licensing.

The year runs from January to December, so taking accredited CPD courses and participating in eligible activities before the first full year commences allows new licensees to accumulate eligible hours within an extended time.

Consequences of non-compliance:
Failure to comply with CPD requirements could lead to administrative suspension from practice. Keep written confirmation of registration at CPD programs, program materials, attendee lists and discussion notes. For a detailed outline of required documentation according to the type of eligible educational activity, see the Law Society PDF.

More information:

* Note Well:

A two-year review of the CPD requirement and its operation has been completed. The CPD Requirement is being changed, and the New Member requirement dropped. Some changes took effect May 30, 2013; others are effective 2014.

Read more about the changes in this SCOPE article.

CPD requirements may be found on the Law Society website.

To find LSUC programs containing professional responsibility, ethics and practice management content, including some that are free, see the CPD calendar.

How to enter those CPD Requirement Hours:

A list of accredited programming from all providers is available on the LSUC Portal.

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