On the 25th November, the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB) released the findings of an independent review into Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in Victoria. The review was conducted by independent consultant Chris Humphreys and involved interviews with over 170 organisation and individuals about how the system in Victoria could be improved, enabling the legal profession to have meaningful, relevant and accessible learning opportunities that enrich the quality of legal services provided to the Victorian community.
The review concluded that while the CPD system is not broken, it needs improvement to reflect more contemporary approaches to adult learning and professional development. Saying “The reverence for knowledge espoused, and genuinely felt, by many in the profession focuses on the acquisition of knowledge about the content of the law. While this focus is valuable, it is insufficient to equip a lawyer with the skills needed to apply the law, to conduct a business, to advise clients or employers, to make difficult ethical choices. Comprehensive learning is not embraced as an integral part of a practice in which a lawyer reflects systematically on their strengths and weaknesses and how to become a more effective lawyer”
A key recommendation of the report was the development of a competency framework for lawyers, which gives greater weight to skills needed for contemporary legal practice and to shift the focus of activity from compliance to genuine learning and development.
The report, ‘Getting the Point? Review of Continuing Professional Development for Victorian Lawyers’ provides 28 recommendations for change, including:
- Development of a competency framework that describes the core skills for practising lawyers, differentiated by levels of experience and expertise
- Production of resources for lawyers that provide information, guidance and templates about CPD activities, including reflective practise and planning
- Working with the Law Institute, Victorian Bar and CPD providers to identify ways in which more effective, customised activities can be designed and delivered
- Raising the profile and strengthening the resources available for CPD in key areas such as technology and the law, sexual harassment, family violence, diversity and inclusion, and health and wellbeing
- Improving the approach to CPD Ethics programs
- Developing a more active approach to identifying risk and linking CPD programs to identified risks
- Using the CPD audit process to gather better information about risk and lawyers’ use of CPD
- Establishing a CPD Steering Committee with representatives from the Law Institute, Victorian Bar, lawyers not in private practice, and academic or other experts to implement the review’s recommendations, in consultation with other stakeholders
- Strengthening and re-orienting the profession’s culture of learning through leadership and communication of the new approaches.
There are also some recommendations aimed at clarifying and broadening the CPD topics and options available for those lawyers working in the corporate, government and community sector.
Fiona McLeay, Legal Services Board CEO and Commissioner said: “We are grateful to Chris for the high levels of engagement generated and fostered with our stakeholders and the legal profession and for the considered and thoughtful manner in which the review was conducted. We thank everyone who contributed to the review and took the time to share their experiences and views, and to engage in the conversation. We will now review the recommendations and develop a regulatory response for discussion in early 2021” Ms McLeay said.