For those of you who read my June 2015 column entitled “I’m Conducting an Opinion Poll,” I have some results to share. To jog your memories, as Chair of the Lawyer Education Advisory Committee of the Benchers, I was soliciting opinions from the membership about Professional Legal Training Course (PLTC) and the articling program. Although our committee conducted objective surveys of newly called lawyers, and met with representatives of law firms throughout the province as part of a formal review, I decided to canvass even more lawyers informally through this column, (supposedly because people read it).
Although I would like to say that I received the statistically improbable number of 13,562 responses from 11,848 practising members, in truth, I received close to 50 written responses and around ten telephone calls. The overwhelming majority of lawyers who responded to me (46 out of 50) resoundingly supported continuing PLTC in its current form; tweaked from time to time as necessary. But in fairness, there were a few who would like to have shaved a couple of weeks off PLTC, or who didn’t like it in the middle of a student’s articles; something that we’ve tried to address in our Report to the Benchers, which you can find online here.
As far as articling, the membership continues to wholeheartedly support the articling program in BC more or less as it is now, and was against adopting the terrifying U.S. style system where there is no articling program to speak of. Some lawyers expressed a concern about a lack of a skills training program in Ontario’s main articling path, and the lack of real articles in its LPP program, and how that might affect newly called Ontario lawyers moving to BC. However, the conclusion that we reached was that PLTC continues to meet the gold standard for pre-call legal skills training in Canada, and we heard this time and time again: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
As a small aside, as an example of l’esprit d’escalier (in English, it’s called “staircase wit”), I should have asked another question: “what do you think of pre-call legal skills training in Canada?” Who knows? Someone with a sardonic sense of humour may have echoed Chou En-lai when asked “what do you think of Western civilization.” Chou responded: “I think it would be a good idea.”
The committee is now looking at Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) this year. So check your inbox over the next few weeks for a survey from the law society all about CPD. When you receive it, please take a few minutes to complete it, and whether you like CPD, or you hate CPD, don’t hesitate to put your own comments in the survey. Of course, in addition to the survey, you can always email me your concerns directly.
Mandatory CPD has been a requirement since 2009 in BC. I know people grumble about it, particularly in November or December when they realize they may be short a few credits (particularly for ethics and professional responsibility). But I’m betting the survey results show that many lawyers only record up to 12 credits, but in truth, qualify for more. I’ve always liked the idea of a mechanism to carry forward certain unused credits to the next year. Likewise, I like the idea of having an iOS or Android app so that you can record your CPD credits while you’re at the course, as opposed to only being able to record them at your office (and then forgetting about it). Still, there are some who might advocate for no specific recording of CPD, but rather, each lawyer would have to certify on oath that they completed the required number of units (with the knowledge that they could be randomly selected to substantiate that sworn statement).
There are other people that believe that CPD credit should be available for things that do not, at the moment, qualify, such as pro bono activity, courses on marketing and business development and lawyer wellness.
In any event, look for the survey in your inbox and complete it. And contact me if you wish.
This article was first published in the June 2016 issue of BarTalk. The views expressed herein are strictly those of Tony Wilson and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members.