Most of us know that leaving a project till the last minute is a bad idea but there’s nothing like a looming deadline to get the heart rate up. Well, the Australian mandatory Continuing Legal Education (CLE, or Continuing Professional Development, CPD) deadline is 31 March 2015 for Aussie lawyers and I’m guessing there are more than a few lawyers out there who are a little short on points?
As the end of the CLE year approaches, we face a number of challenges including completing enough units by the deadline and making sure we spend our time and money wisely on the right kinds of courses. So here are some tips for those scrambling to score points in the nick of time.
The Lowdown: Check Your Rules and Requirements
It is mandatory for Australian lawyers in most jurisdictions to complete professional development training (CPD or CLE), which means a minimum of 10 CPD points each year to maintain your practising certificate, and stay up to date with legislative changes as well as legal practice management developments. The MCLE (CPD) year runs from 1 April to 31 March the following year.
In NSW, for example, solicitors must complete 1 unit in each of the following areas: ethics and professional responsibility, professional skills, and practice management and business skills (see Rule 57.1.6 of the NSW Professional Conduct and Practice Rules). Also, in accordance with clause 176 of the Legal Profession Regulation 2005, every three years at least one of your CPD units must cover:
- equal employment opportunity
- discrimination and harassment
- occupational health and safety law
- employment law.
Make sure you check the rules in your state or territory and visit the relevant Law Society website to ensure you accumulate the requisite points by the end of March.
Think Outside the Square
The Law Society of New South Wales recommends that you think outside the square when researching easy ways to accumulate your CLE points, for example, by mixing up your units with some podcasts or webinars. This will save practitioners a whole lot of time, particularly those solicitors in regional or rural areas who may not have access to face-to-face presentations as often as the city dwellers.
Last Minute Mayhem: Finding Seminars
For the time poor, LawCPD offers online CPD courses to suit busy schedules, such as Effective Writing for Lawyers with Frank Sanitate (4.5 points, $395), Legal Issues in Cloud Computing (1 point, $99) and Legal Argument in Advocacy: The Classic Revisited with Michael Shanahan SC (1 point, $99). LawCPD courses are 100% online so you can watch them at your leisure.
College of Law offers face-to-face and online delivery courses such as Cutting Edge Issues in Contracts (6 points, 26 March 2015) and Construction Law: What You Must Know (3 points, 19 March 2015), amongst many more.
Bulletpoints also provides face-to-face courses such as the Sydney-based Business Law seminar (one day, 6 points, $585), Women of the Law (5 points, $500), IP Development and Portfolio Building (3 points, $240). In Brisbane, there’s the Managing Poor Performance seminar with Margaret Jolly Consulting (1 point, $99) and in Adelaide, you can attend the Law Firm Financial Health Checks seminar ($99, 1 point) with Karen Percival of MNP Consulting.
You can even smash out 10 points in Hong Kong if you’re headed that way with the Legal Leaders Asia Forum (Hong Kong, $995, 24/25 March).
Home Cinema: Recordings and DVDs
To save your valuable time, you may be able to watch DVDs or read seminar papers to accrue points in the comfort of your own home. In NSW, a maximum of 5 points out of 10 can be made up from private study of video/audio/DVDs (1 CPD unit per hour).
In Queensland, in order to claim CPD points for viewing DVD resources, practitioners need to ensure the resources have been produced within the relevant CPD year. Again, visit your state or territory Law Society website and find out how you can pop your headphones on at home for some efficient point scoring.
Score Presentation Points
Have you written anything for a law journal or presented a seminar? Are you a law lecturer? Well, a big tick for you if you are. Chances are you’ll be able to build your points and satisfy the Law Society requirements by lecturing or presenting papers at conferences, conventions or seminars.
Request an Extension
If you think you just need a bit more time, request an extension. Most Law Societies provide for a process whereby you can keep the clock ticking. In NSW and Victoria, you can ask for 90 days.
So don’t panic yet: there’s plenty of options!