Continuing your legal education throughout your career is deemed so important throughout Australia, that there are in fact continuing legal professional development requirements which vary between each state and territory in Australia. Legal practitioners in most jurisdictions across Australia are required to undertake mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activity in order to maintain their practising certificate and to stay up to date with legislative and other changes.
This is an important part of ensuring that you provide your clients with the highest level of care, that comes from an informed and up to date understanding of complex and ever changing areas of law including compensation claims, estate planning and criminal law procedures.
Broadly, the minimum CPD requirements are aimed at ensuring Australian legal practitioners remain up to date in the following important fields.
- ethics and professional responsibility
- practice management and business skills
- professional skills
- substantive law
- equal employment opportunity
- discrimination and harassment
- occupational health and safety law
Mandatory continuing legal education
The requirements of continuing professional development for legal practitioners differ across the different legal jurisdictions of Australia but are broadly aimed at giving you the opportunity to develop your knowledge and skills as a legal practitioner, improve the level of legal counsel you can provide to your clients and maintain a competitive edge in your area of practice. Depending on your jurisdiction, your CPD requirements will either be measured as units or as hours. Some common options available for legal practitioners across Australia to meet their CPD requirements include;
- attending seminars and conferences
- postgraduate study
- publishing articles in law journals and other legal publications
- becoming a member of a State law society, section or committee
- private study of audio or visual material
It is important to note that a CPD activity must also:
- deal primarily with matters related to the practitioner’s practice of law
- be of significant intellectual content
- seek to extend the practitioner’s knowledge and skills in areas that are relevant to the practitioner’s practice needs.
In all states that require some form of CPD, you must maintain a record of your engagement in CPD activities and provide evidence of these activities you have undertaken. If you are subject to a CPD audit, you will be required to produce this record as evidence of your compliance. It is the responsibility of all lawyers to ensure they maintain up to date record keeping of their activities, and to ensure that they have met the minimum requirements each year.
Ensuring that legal practitioners continue their legal education throughout their career is considered an integral component in ensuring that all lawyers provide a high level of counsel to all of their clients. Therefore, If you do not comply with your CPD obligations, you will need to remedy your failure to complete your CPD obligations.
You can take action to rectify your non-compliance by:
- completing any outstanding CPD units
- submitting a rectification plan
Across Australia, these minimum requirements are a condition of obtaining a certificate to practice. Therefore violating such a condition may be grounds for the variation, suspension or cancellation of your right to practice law.
It is important to remember that the object of these requirements is to assist legal practitioners to further their professional competence and capacity to provide high quality legal services which benefit their clients and the community as a whole. Remaining up to date with the minimum requirements ensures that you are providing your clients with the highest level of knowledge, protecting them from receiving advice that does not reflect the current state of law and protecting yourself from exposure to a professional misconduct charge. It is therefore important to remain aware and up to date with your state’s CPD requirements .