I know the debate over whether all programming directed to lawyers should be available for CLE credit rages on, and some disagree with my siding against many types of content - such as marketing or career development. Many feel that these topics make for "better lawyers" - acknowledging that law is a business. I argue that these topics might make for more profitable lawyers, but is that purpose of MCLE?
I do feel that many topics now not currently available should actually be accredited. One way to end much of the debate would be to more clearly define law practice management within the MCLE rules. Law practice management means different things to different people - as clear in some of the conversations I've seen on listservs or have been a part of with regulators. More clearly defining what is available for credit and what topics will not meet the requirements would provide a guideline for content providers and ensure consistency in accreditation practices.
On Wednesday, November 16th, the Law Society of British Columbia announced several changes, effective January 1, 2012. These changes: "broaden the range of options available to lawyers to obtain credit for their CPD activities."
I will be writing a future post on the substance of the changes, but one area in particular that appeals to me is the clear definition of law practice management the rules set out. According to "CPD Changes and Updated Circular effective January 1, 2012", Practice management is:
Content focusing on administration of a lawyer‟s workload and office, and on client-based administration, including how to start up and operate a law practice in a manner that applies sound and efficient law practice management methodology.
(a) client care and relations, including managing difficult clients;
(b) trust accounting requirements, including:
(i) trust reporting;
(ii) financial reporting for a law practice;
(iii) interest income on trust accounts;
(iv) working with a bookkeeper;
(c) Federal and provincial tax remittances, including employee income tax remittances;
(d) technology in law practice including:
(i) law office systems;
(iii) legal document preparation and management, including precedents;
(e) retainer agreements and billing practices relating to Law Society requirements, including:
(i) unbundling of legal services;
(ii) permissible alternative billing arrangements;
(f) avoiding fee disputes;
(g) file systems, including retention and disposal;
(h) succession planning;
(i) emergency planning, including law practice continuity for catastrophic events and coverage during absences;
(j) managing law firm staff, including:
(i) Professional Conduct Handbook requirements;
(ii) delegation of tasks/supervision;
(k) identifying conflicts, including:
(i) conflict checks and related systems;
(ii) client screening;
(l) diary and time management systems, including:
(i) limitation systems;
(ii) reminder systems;
(iii) follow-up systems;
(m) avoiding "being a dupe"/avoiding fraud;
(n) complying with Law Society Rules.
The circular also clearly defines what topics would NOT be available for CPD credit. These include:
(a) law firm marketing;
(a) law firm marketing;
(b) maximizing profit;
(c) commoditization of legal services;
(d) surviving a recession;
(e) basic technology and office systems (unless in the specific context of practising law, as listed above);
(f) attracting and retaining law firm talent;
(g) alternate work arrangements in a law firm;
(h) business case for retention of lawyers and staff, including retention relating to gender, Aboriginal identity, cultural diversity, disability, or sexual orientation and gender identity.
(i) handling interpersonal differences within your law firm;
(j) cultural sensitivity in working with your law firm staff;
(k) training to be a mentor.
By providing such a clear framework for providers of continuing education, there is no doubt which topics qualify and which would not. There is also no doubt that many of the courses which currently do not obtain credit under many exisiting MCLE schemes would do so under these definitions.
What are your thoughts on this matter? Should ALL programs be available for MCLE credit? Should law practice management programs under this definition? Should NONE of them?